An enforcer in the Korean mob hides out on an island after attacking a rival boss.
Directed by Park Hoon-jung
Starring Uhm Tae-goo and Jeon Yeo-been
Review by Jon Kissel
If Park isn’t going to evenly space his film’s events out, balancing plot with character as movies are supposed to do, how does he achieve this bloated runtime? By having his characters, such as they are, serve as walking advertisements for the tobacco industry, elongating dead conversations with pregnant pauses that are accompanied by a long drag from a cigarette or a vape pen or sometimes both. This infuriating delay tactic strips Tae-goo of any rooting interest or sympathy, because he would be enraging to spend any time with. Combined with his anti-charisma affect, this is a lead in search of human behavior, though he’s in good company with the other inhabitants of Jeju Island, where Tae-goo has to hide until he can flee to Russia. Fatalistic, terminally ill Kim Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been) is just as slow in her speech as Tae-goo, so scenes between these two become tortuous. As painful as conversations are, action scenes are just as drawn out and interminable. Tae-goo’s tragic death builds to several climactic killing blows, the score peaking over each one only to recede and re-peak on the next fatal stab wound. I checked the time on Night in Paradise at the obvious climax, where all the characters have assembled in a confined space. There was somehow thirty minutes left in a film that only had two locations left. Why does Park Hoon-jung hate his audience so much?
Night in Paradise has no idea what kind of story it wants to tell, how to tell what is present, or a reason to exist. It’s a bleak slog that skimps over vital relationship work in exchange for scenes that add nothing and repeat themselves. This was an infuriating experience that would’ve been helped by watching it at 2x speed, or not at all. We’ve recently seen several movies on the MMC main page who knew exactly what kind of water they were swimming in, and while none of them were great, at least they could provide some surface charms. Night in Paradise has no sense of itself and deliberately deprives the viewer of anything that makes a movie worth watching in the first place. This is banal anti-cinema that made me physically uncomfortable with its glacial pace, a pace that contains no insightful rewards for the patient viewer. It’s the viewer who is the mantis of the opening parable. They see this movie charging down the road and think to themselves, ‘yup, I can withstand this experience without losing interest,’ only to be run down by yet another pensive look over the ocean, a place I wanted to drown myself in while watching Night in Paradise. D-