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When RYOO Seung-wan debuted with Die Bad, the press stated it as the first appearance of ‘the action movie kid generation’ in Korean cinema. This generation of young people who grew up raving over action films were now carrying on the tradition of the action film genre in a modern way. Looking back, this hype was rather strange. RYOO’s debut film did not have the baroque rhythm, resoluteness, or style. RYOO Seung-wan did not have the capacity to accommodate the ntricate actions of Jackie Chan or John Woo’s choreography of violence, or the convulsive camera movements of Scorsese. Instead, he reveals a certain truth that cannot be packaged only with style. It was introduced as an action film but it was actually a film that contained the impulse for fierce realism.
The materials in Die Bad are familiar yet unfamiliar. Mismatched fate and a self-destructive play of men is the story of men with a long history since Sam PECKINPAH’s film. It is also John WOO’s story but the movie’s climax is not the magnificent gun fight leading to a determined death but an overlapping of a gang fight that looks like a dogfight and one-on-one fights that lead to a gruesome ending. Knives and sticks are used in the bloody fight which leaves Sanghwan, the main character, dying with his body beaten to a pulp, and the other leading character Seokhwan screaming and bleeding after being stabbed in the eyes while trying to get revenge on someone who drove Sanghwan to his death, which are just as the Korean title says: Die or Be Bad. Other references besides Sam PECKINPAH or John WOO would include Jackie CHAN, Martin
SCORSESE and Quentin TARANTINO, but the then young RYOO Seungwan planted the specific details of reality that he himself realized within the boundaries of film references. Traces of a movie buff are clear but we should consider the historical value of this film in the sense that it replaced the cliches of movie references with the spirit of going up against the banality of life.