The title of the film is perhaps an ironic one as there is plenty of blood and tears in the film. Compared to Guy Ritchie's Snatch with good reason, No Blood No Tears follows a huge cast of underworld miscreants all eventually trying to figure out how to steal a bag full of cash belonging to mob boss KGB (Sin Gu) whose underling, ex-boxer Bulldog (Jeong Jaeyeong) runs a dog fighting arena for him. Having had enough of regular abuse by Bulldog, his girlfriend Sujin (Jeon Doyeon) concocts a plan to take the money and run with the help of the down-on-her-luck ex-con taxi driver Gyeongseon (I Hyeyeong). Of course, between some plotting street hoodlums, the wily KGB, the police, and Gyeongseon's own gangster debt collectors, this is probably not going to be as easy as Sujin plans it to be.
There is quite a bit of buildup to the actual caper which focuses on the huge cast of characters. Some of them, like the street punks led by Chae Minsu (Ryu Seungbeom) are understandably limited in development as they are bit plot and comedy players. However, I felt like despite the amount of time spent with them, the three main leads of Gyeongseon, Sujin, and Bulldog are a touch underdeveloped and I really wanted to spend a little more time with the two women. Perhaps it would have been more satisfying starting with the pair instead of getting to them after meeting other characters as they do end up being the principal protagonists.
Sometimes the transitions between the different characters stories is a little choppy, but each plays a particular part and I really love how they all collide at the film's end into some massive, black comedy chaos. The twists towards the end are especially strong and play into the greedy conniving characterization of the world of the thieves that the characters inhabit. That said, the film still feels just a touch too long, but some of that might be because of the lengthy fight sequences that pepper it.
Director Ryu perhaps overindulges in No Blood No Tears a little, adding flashy photographic and editing techniques to some of his fight sequences and even some non-fight sequences resulting in a sometimes confusing viewing. He also indulges in a lot of extended onscreen violence, some of which feels a touch excessive considering that the point gets across pretty quickly. I liked how No Blood No Tears was shot, given a grimy gritty cast and making the most of the still somewhat limited production budget. The performances are pretty strong all around with Jeon Doyeon doing fine playing against type and all the bit players are especially excellent in their limited roles, from the elderly gangsters to the young punks.
The weaknesses of No Blood No Tears, particularly in the length, unbalanced story, and some of the directorial excesses don't counter how well the film works as a crime caper film with a focus on character. It's brash, darkly funny, brutal, but vindicating at the same time and will likely be enjoyed well by those who appreciate Ritchie's oeuvre as well as Ryu Seungwan's filmography. 8/10
- Director: 류승완
- Writers: 류승완, 정진완
- Principal Cast: 김영인, 류승범, 백일섭, 백찬기, 신구, 이영후, 이혜영, 전도연, 정두홍, 정재영
- Feature website
- At Daum, IMDb, Naver, Wikipedia (en|ko)
- More Reviews: City on Fire, Far East Films, Hanguk Yeonghwa, Koreanfilm.org, New Korean Cinema, Rotten Tomatoes
- Available at Amazon (US Region 1 DVD) and YesAsia (KR Region 3 DVD)