‘Pieta’ tries to redeem a thuggish loan shark through motherly love

Lee Jung-jin plays a sadistic loan shark in Kim Ki-duk's "Pieta" Credit: Drafthouse Films
Lee Jung-jin plays a sadistic loan shark in Kim Ki-duk’s “Pieta.”
Credit: Drafthouse Films

‘Pieta’
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Stars: Lee Jeong-jin, Jo Min-soo
Rated: NR
2 (out of 5) Globes

Put simply, South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk is the type of filmmaker who would make a fraught, sometimes sexually outre film about a mother-son relationship and call it “Pieta.” Kang-do (Lee Jeong-jin) is a miserable, sadistic loan shark with a hairdo borrowed from mid-1990s London. While doing his usual duties of brutally crippling marks and using the insurance money to pay back their cartoonishly high debts, he runs afoul of Mi-son (Jo Min-soo), a mysterious middle-aged woman he claims is the mother who gave him up soon as he was born. Perhaps Kang-do wouldn’t have become a psychopathic rapist meanie if he’d had a nice mother who loved him, the film wonders. She’s intent to make up for lost time, even if that only means putting in a few extra kicks to some poor guy’s ribs after Kang-do has already worked him over.

When he started out in the late ’90s and early aughts, Kim was one of the nastier of the South Korean tyros, which is saying something. (We won’t reveal into which body part a fish hook was attached in “The Isle.”) In the middle of the last decade, he suddenly calmed down. “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring,” “3-Iron” and “Time” parlaid his penchant for heavy formalism and questionable symbolism into satisfying (though still questionable) explorations of faith, morality and persona. Then he went over the edge. “The Bow” and other recent films go too far into simplistic bathos, making the paucity of his ideas all the more noticeable and ruining the balance that made those three films seem like the work of a promising talent.

“Pieta,” Kim’s first to get significant notice in ages, swings back the other way. A scene where Kang-do shoves his hand into his alleged mother’s nether regions, declaiming “I came out of here?” is a juvenile’s idea of transgression, conceived chiefly to be debated and excoriated in reviews like this. It’s all building to pat salvation anyway, with Mi-son gradually — but not that gradually — breaking down her potential son’s defenses, exposing him to the harm he’s caused others and making his heart, once two sizes too small, perhaps become two sizes too big. (OK, it stops before it gets that bad.) As with anything, presentation can make even the most noxious tale somewhat tolerable. Kim has a plain, direct, almost earnest directing style that makes following “Pieta” on one level satisfying, even as its unsatisfying destination is never for a second in doubt.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.