Crying Fist (Jumeogi unda) – 2005
Down on his luck and desperate, Gang Tae-shik is doing it hard on the streets. He’s lost the respect of his son, and his wife has thrown him out of home. Now the former silver medallist of the Asian Games is selling himself on the street as a human punching bag. To wipe his mounting debt and regain his plummeting dignity, Gang sets his sights on the amateur boxing title. Yoo Sang-hwan is a young rebel with few prospects and even less ambition. Living for gang fights and muggings, he soon finds himself behind bars in a juvenile detention centre. But his penchant for punching has one guard suggest he join the boxing club. The amateur boxing title provides, for the first time, direction in his life. Gang and Yoo face off for the battle of their lives.
Crying Fist is a 2005 movie written and directed by Seung-wan Ryoo. It stars one of my all time favorites, Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, Failan, A Quiet Family) as Tae-shik as an old boxer who’s personal and financial life are falling apart, and Seung-beom Ryu (the director’s brother) as Sang-hwan, a troubled kid who finds redemption through boxing.
The movie is over two hours long, but never gets boring. Even the photography alone is a good reason to approach it, because it’s so beautiful and moving and detailed that it will be impossible not to appreciate it. The plot unfolds slowly but at good pace, while we follow the two separate stories of two men trying to regain dignity as human beings, and the results of what’s on the screen is wonderful and touching and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Both the actors deliver such a stunning performance that you won’t be able to help but sympathise with them and it will make you want to know what happens next. Choi Min-sik is so incredibly talented it’s almost unfair. Another review from Imdb summed up the movie perfectly, so i’m just gonna quote it this time:
Many will think this is just another tear-jerking melodrama. It is not, I guarantee, but you would not be able to appreciate the real thing unless you have once gone through your own hell in the life. I cried with Ryu at the end of the movie, I felt his sorrow and happiness so real just as they were mine, it was mentally painful.
I am not an expert in professional sports movies, but personally Crying Fist reminded me of The Wrestler in many ways. Just as in Aronofsky‘s flick, the movie is more about the characters rather than the discipline, which becomes sort of a media used by both of them to find some kind of redemption, and a reason not to give up yet.
I think if you liked the Wrestler you’re gonna love this one as well. I’m not gonna forget this movie anytime soon, and i’ll keep it as an example as of why korean cinema is so special to me.