Redemption Through Fists By Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

in 58th Cannes Film Festival

by Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

Ryoo Seung-wan, the young Korean director, has succeeded in making his fourth feature film Crying Fist a remarkable one. It was released on April 1, 2005 and immediately became a box office hit with almost 1.8 million viewers in three weeks. Contributing to its success was the casting of Korean super star Choi Min-sik in the main role as Tae-shik. This is perhaps his best performance after having made his name previously in Old Boy, Spring Time, Chiwaseon and Swiri.

Tae-shik was a silver medallist in boxing at the Asian games in his early life, but now he gets paid to be beaten up in the street by angry and frustrated men. Gambling debts and a factory fire have consumed everything he has ever owned, so he had no choice but to become a street fighter to support his wife and beloved son. But like other middle class women who cares about her status and the future, she demands a divorce and tells him that she is taking his son away from him. So the 41-year-old street fighter decides to fight for the amateur boxing title, knowing that George Foreman, became World Heavyweight Boxing Champion at the age of 45.

Sang-hwan (Ryoo Seung-bum), meanwhile, has got involved in gang fights and muggings. One day, he robs a wealthy neighbor. But this time he is caught by the police and put into juvenile detention. On the first day of prison he starts a fight, gets injured and is thrown into solitary confinement. But a security guard suggests that Sang-hwan should join the boxing club. Boxing gradually teaches Sang-hwan that, for the first time, that he could actually do something. While serving time, his father has died suddenly and his grandmother has had a cerebral hemorrhage as a result of the shock. The only thing that keeps Sang-hwan going is boxing. He prepares to win the amateur title in an effort to shake off his grief.

The preparation for the amateur championship is done in the form of a commercial. Tae-shik gradually recovers his old boxing skills with hard training beating opponent after opponent. At the same time, Sang-hwan has knocked all his opponents. The two boxers are equally matched for the championship with their backgrounds, skills, and destinies. The 41-year-old Tae-shik has no place left to go or turn back, while the young and energetic 19-year-old year Sang-hwan is fighting for a better life.

The fight of a lifetime between the two characters begins with both of them determined to hold their ground. In the end, Sang-hwan beats Tae-shik because the old must be replaced by the young.

But the clear message of the film is that by using one’s sporting skills one can become part of society, the impossible can become possible, if one doesn’t give up hope.