Coin Locker Girl
Director: Han Jun-hee
This film comes at you like a roundhouse kick - high, hard and out of nowhere.
Brutal and nihilistic with not a glimmer of hope and humanity. As you go
along you think how much nastier can this get, but perhaps the final shot
of just a face starring ahead is the cruelest of all. I am not sure if this
could be made anywhere but in Korea these days. They have no fear of offending
audiences. All that said this was pretty good - excellent performances from
a primarily young group of actors and though the story is unrelentingly bleak
it is compelling. Hard to take your eyes off of the main lead, actress Kim
Go-eun, who goes through the film like a blank cypher, never surprised at
any of the ugliness and savagery in her world.
Il-young (Kim Go-eun) was put into a coin locker right after birth and left
for anyone who wanted her. This turned out to be a beggar who brought her
up for eight years among the dirt, hunger and on the run from harassing cops.
At eight she is stolen and thrown into a gang of beggar children under the
supervision of Mother (Kim Hye-su). Mother is a psycho killer bitch with
no more morals than a bloody razor blade. The actress is great. If a child
does not make the grade as a beggar, they will just be kicked out of the
van along the road.
Out of the few children who make the grade Mother forms a "family" of sorts
and as they get older they graduate to more difficult jobs - debt collectors
where if a loan is not paid off they kill them and take their eyes and kidneys
to be sold. Cut them up into little pieces and toss them into the garbage.
This homey family consists of two boys who do the killing and cutting, a
girl who doubles as a prostitute and is strung out on heroin and Il-young
who collects debts. On one occasion a fellow can't make the full payment
so she tells him to drink out of a glass bottle and smashes it when in his
mouth. And she is the "heroine" of the film. No one here to like but you
sort of root for her because in a world of psychos she is the least of them
and you have to root for someone.
Things take an even nastier turn when Il-young finds herself attracted to
the son of a man with debt who has disappeared and gives him a break. Mother
doesn't and from that point the film rushes down a dark vicious unreturnable
hole that is a kick to the stomach. So this is probably not a date film unless
your girlfriend is Ilsa of the SS.