Ji-noo (played by Ryoo Seung-bum) is always clad in his distinctive helmet as he does jobs for...I think he's supposed to be working for some sort of corporation but they act like the mob. I don't mean that metaphorically. Their response to the disappearance of important money is literally to bludgeon people until they're so disfigured they need special make-up for the rest of the movie. Anyway, what Ji-noo does isn't that important anyway. Na-mi (played by Go Joon-hee) runs a junk yard. Her much more important contribution to the story is to show off her butt.
"Intimate Enemies" isn't really so much a film as it is a weird stream-of-consciousness of fetishes. The obsession with body mutilation is disturbing, and by the end we're apparently supposed to be cheering the main characters on while they commit cold-blooded murder. Close-ups of women's buttocks, sometimes with gratuitous slapping, appear at regular intervals. The middle finger is frequently used as if it were a joke on its own, but I personally suspect director Im Sang-soo is just sort of turned on by middle fingers.
The story? Technically I think this is a heist movie, but this reading is rendered difficult by the fact that the main characters have possession of the money for most of the runtime. That would appear to really make "Intimate Enemies" an escape movie, except that the characters never really do any escaping. Given how weird the movie sounds in the abstract one might think it's supposed to be a comedy, except that none of the alleged jokes are all that funny. So what is "Intimate Enemies" exactly?
I don't know. I honestly have no idea. I'm hard-pressed to think of another movie which has ever made such a deliberate attempt at just wasting time. Try as I might I can't even come up with a nonsensical film theory reading of the movie. Do the main characters represent...modern romance? Consumer culture? A parody of what an actual movie is supposed to look like, except without the parts that would make it coherent?
On some level that's really an accomplishment. How exactly can a film feature a bunch of psychotic illegal immigrants as prominent supporting characters and somehow not make a social statement out of that? Well, that question isn't quite as rhetorical as it sounds- because there's no point. There's never any urgency. There's barely even any characterization. Ji-noo and Na-mi quite literally strike up a romance out of nowhere. We go from fantasy sequence sex to actual sex with barely even any acknowledgment that one of these scenes was imaginary.
Yes, I am aware of the fact that everything in a fictional movie is, by definition, imaginary. Which is why I have a rather strong distaste for films that get so obsessed with their own meta-subtext that the people involved forget that a movie has to be entertaining first, or else no one is going to want to watch it. If you've ever wanted to see a dadaist film disguised as mainstream fare, conceivably "Intimate Enemies" might be your movie. Anyone outside that ridiculously narrow group should stay far, far away.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Intimate Enemies""
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