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Kim Jee Woon

Updated on June 19, 2013

The Last Stand kicks off with a bang, heralding three Korean directors in their first foray into to English speaking films. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who is the sheriff of Summertown County, where posses of drug cartels are making their escape to Mexico. It’s a nonstop joy ride full of mind blowing action, exquisite set pieces, and polished camera work. From the jaw dropping single track shot of four convicts gliding down a zip-line onto the roof of Las Vegas strip buildings to the stomach churning impact of corn slamming against the windshield as the dry turf is mowed down by two sports cars, this movie is as hilarious as a sock puppet parking in a handicap space.


One cannot deny the spectacular framing of the action sequences. Please welcome Kim Jee Woon to our American shores. As a director, he uses virtually no computer enhanced images (except a few death scenes) and it works incredibly well in portraying gritty, sleek, realistic, in-your-face, knock-em-out extravagance. You feel every punch, every body slam, every gunshots to the teeth. You can smell the perspiration on camera and taste the whiff of explosions—real explosions, not CGI.

The hands on technical directing makes you feel up close and person. If you are an action fan, you will love this film. The tactics chosen to convey the film made the LionGates producer marvel at how well Kim could visualize and adapt his scenes and edit them with his editor on staff. Kim edited the film while he directing The Last Stand, on the spot, a very foreign concept to American filmmakers who tends to edit after the production shooting is wrapped up.


A Bittersweet Life Trailer

Kim other’s work, of course, far surpasses any American film. A film called A Bittersweet Life is my favorite of his. I can’t stress enough how perfect the cinematography, music, action, drama, dialogue, the script is. It crackles with wit and suspense. Every shot and composition is pitch-perfect. It’s about a mobster who decided to change his way and wants out. He is forced to deal with the consequence. The consequence is forced to reckon with his vengeance. Who will win? What’s truly surprising is that this script was written in three days.

Yes, you read that right. 3 days.

Bong Joon Ho, another Korean filmmaker with his wide-release “Snowpiercer” coming this summer, has said Kim writes too fast. He’s like a penguin on speed.

But it wasn’t his stylish thriller that caught neither the producer’s eyes, nor his horror flick “The Tale of Two Sisters” or “I Saw the Devil,” it was Jee Woon’s spaghetti style western called, “The Good the Bad & the Weird.” And Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville were attached to the film, and the rest is history.

Now, Kim was here in the states, answering Q&A, after a special screening of the film. I had the pleasure of being invited and watched as he answered the fan’s questions as faithfully as possible. Kim couldn’t speak a lick of English; therefore he had a translator convert Korean to English for the audience. I had a question myself, so I raised my hand.

“You there, in the mink hat,” the interviewer said, pointing at me.

“Yeah,” I said. “This is a question aimed at the director. Did you have any schooling for directing, Director Kim? If you did, how long were you educated in film for?”

“No, I did not,” he answered. “I was unemployed for ten years. During those ten years, all I did was watch movies, listen to music, and read good books.”

My jaw dropped open. Did I hear this guy correctly? No schooling? He learned directing just by watching movies and using his imagination?

Oh my God, I thought. He’s just like me!

A chorus of applause erupted in the theater.

Did you know the movie The Uninvited starring Emily Browning & Arielle Kebbel is a remake for Kim Jee Won's horror flick, The Tale of Two Sisters?

The Tale of Two Sister is also a traditional korean folklore, Kim adapted into a film.

Later on I read his autobiography at home (the one my mother purchased for me in Korea), and in it, Kim writes how he really did not do anything for ten years during his mid twenties all the way to the age of 34. Of course, he was drawing, creating, and composing in his heads, but the effort of putting his thoughts his creative force into action didn’t happen until he turned thirty four.

Kim had no schooling in film. He learned it all from watching his favorite films directed by Hitchcock to Woody Allen, John Cassavetes to Francis Ford Coppola, and the Coen brothers, and the rest.

As a child, he was the eccentric kid. He cried for no obvious reasons; creating live drama, his imaginary situation enfolded in front of his very eyes. His mother had taken him to a medical doctor to figure out what was wrong with him. Kim had the dramatic flair of portraying himself more than what he was. That was the only way to sell off his artworks at his elementary school.

As an avid comic drawer, he drew everyday and every night to the point he didn’t eat. One night, his mother cut off the electricity to force him to go to sleep. And yet, he still continued to draw in the inky blackness. Even after his father ripped up his drawing, and told him to stop pursuing an artistic career, Kim would glue the ripped paper back together and that’s where he learned the concept of editing--in his past, abusive life.

Kim came from an impoverished family of eight. There were times when all eight family members had to huddle in a single room together and share the same blanket. One blanket for eight people. He moved like a bestsellers list, moving many times before falling off to another location, since his father found work in sundry areas. Now here he sat in front of the public, in front of me, directing one of the highest grossing films, The Last Stand, with no previous schooling or education in the Hollywood industry.

I congratulated him with his success. I shook his hand and took a photograph with him. He made it big, when he had nothing, from out of a tiny peninsula called Korea. One day, I expect him to direct one of my novels translated into a film.

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    • Isaac White profile image

      TDM 4 years ago from Welcome to my beautiful world, where magic is no longer a myth.

      wow, very nice read. can't wait to see it

    • katoly profile image

      katoly 4 years ago

      Viva koreaaaaaaaa

      great rigjting ^^

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Some people are just born with talent, it took Kim awhile but he found it. Interesting story.

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