A by-the-numbers hit man crime-thriller that follows all the plot conventions in an unspectacular way-- a hit man grows a conscience during a job, his bosses seek atonement on him, for him to seek vengeance on them-- and the first 1 1/2 hours is about as simplistic as you can get, with the drama typical and the story trajectory/character arc very cliched. The final 35 minutes delivers the brainless fun, at least.
As has been said already, a very typical revenge plot with unsubtle nods to so many other movies of the gangster/crime genre - but this film ultimately transcends its influences and bare materials to deliver what is an incredibly poetic and moving love story. I loved it.
A great watch eventhough the story might be quite derivative. The casting, acting and the production design really pulls you in and makes for a thrilling ride up to the last frame. Lee is also a great choice for the lead character with his good looks and enigmatic gaze. He really embodies a man existing in a void and wanting to feel but being unable to (almost).
I think director Kim Jee-Woon is a fan and wanted to make his own interpretation of Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA with this movie. It is just because A BITTERSWEET LIFE and that movie almost have a similar title. The plot itself is indeed familiar. Especially, if you're a fan of gangster movie. A lot of my friends complained that this movie is a way too predictable. Well they were right. And its cinematography was amazing.
An absolute standout film in its genre. The only film that compares, in my opinion, is A DIRTY CARNIVAL. It is starkly modern, existential, and replete with 21st century malaise. Themes of alienation and loss are accented by scenes of harsh violence that do not seem gratuitous or inappropriate. There is a longing in this film for something one can never have.