There was a certain period in Korean cinema history that was devoted to gangster films. It became even a profitable trend that was taking popularity very fast. Moreover, the independent production of such films was established and there were even thoughts about replacing Hong Kong industry in this field. It could be called as a struggle with a Hong Kong cinema. Nevertheless, something made Korean gangster films that popular. The reasons can be seen on the example of the film Friend.
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The film is about four young men: Joon-seok, Dong-su, Jung-ho, Sang-taek, who have been friends since childhood. All of them have a different background. Joon-seok was a main guy in the group with a rich father; Dong-su was from an undertaker’s family, Jung-ho, who came from a poor family and Sang-taek, a good boy and an example of a good student. Boys were playing together while being kids. Then they met each other already in a high school, and the action started. They met a group of the girls of their age and paired off with them during one of the parties. At the same time, Dong-su and Joon-seok had a conflict with one of the teachers. Constant fights and troubles were following the friends all the time. After graduation from the school only two of them Jung-ho and Sang-taek went to college. The other preferred to skip this period in their lives. Friends decided to find each other a few years later. Joon-seok was already married to a girl from the band from school. He was seriously ill. He took serious medicine that made him addicted to it, and suffered from depression because his father was dying. Dong-su became a mobster with a rival organization that was led by Sang-gon. Finally, the friends were in opposing gangs. Struggles between these gangs lead to emigration of some of them to other countries. Sang-taek left to the USA. Dong-su was betrayed by the gang and killed.
In several years, Sung-taek came back to South Korea. He was told Jung-ho’s story about his hiding abroad, a mental breakdown, attempt to kill himself in a foreign bar and the decision of the court to admit he was guilty in ordering Dong-su’s death, though he was innocent.
Old friends met but in prison where Joon-seok explained why he had admitted his guilt. At the end of the film, Joon-seok was walking along the street and reflecting on his life.
The film was nominated to several awards and received 3 of them, finally. Some actors won the nomination of the “Best actors”. There were few more awards that sum up to six awards in general.
The film Friend was directed by Kwak Kyung in 2001, and it managed to sell 6, 5 million tracks that brought $24 million revenue. The critical observers admitted that Friend popularized the gangster troops in other films, as well. The film itself is connected with socio-economic crises in 1997. Korea faced several series of major corporate bankruptcies such as Kia Automobile and other. It was obvious that Korean economy was in a bad condition. National bankruptcy was admitted, and Korean government asked for $55 million loan from IMF. Such a background is seen during the whole film.