Though likely too culturally specific to make much of an impact internationally - the Korean audience members frequently reacted to nuances of language and delivery that were completely lost in translation - and showing some of the limitations that can come with a debut writer-director, Kwon Young Chul's A Good Night's Sleep For The Bad is nonetheless a promising picture, one that hints at good things in Kwon's future. A gritty crime drama that takes a number of familiar elements and assembles them in unusual fashion, A Good Night's Sleep showcases Kwon's ability to invert a number of standard genre rules to create something distinct and engaging.
Yun Seong is a young man with a problem. Just twenty four and with no legitimate prospects, his father is in prison and his mother dead, leaving Yun Seong with the unenviable task of raising his two younger siblings himself while also keeping his father's debt collectors at bay. An education is not an option for Yun Seong. His days are spent pumping gas. His nights spent dreaming of scraping together the funds to move himself and his siblings to Canada before his father is released from prison. But how can a young man working a no-hope, minimum wage job ever hope to scrape that kind of money together?
The answer, unfortunately, is that - like it or not - Yun Seong is more like his father than he cares to admit in public. A good day's gambling brings him the ready cash that he needs. A bad day at the card table leaves him in worse shape than he was in before. And desperation throws him into an uneasy alliance with two acquaintances - a pornographer and a smooth talking scam artist who poses as an entertainment talent scout to sleep with teenage girls, the pair of them the closest things Yun Seong has to friends - in a sloppily put together plan to rob the gambling den that cleaned Yun Seong out in the first place, before moving on to bigger targets. You already know this is going to end badly.
There's no doubt that A Good Night's Sleep For The Bad has some significant flaws in pacing and character development but what it has going for it is a likable young cast who take a very unorthodox approach to the material, fusing aimless youth and caper elements in a surprising way. Yun Seong straddles an uneasy line between wanting to be a better man than his father and simply wanting a quick and easy way out, his 'friends' a pair of almost entirely amoral players who are simply looking for an angle on the path of least resistance. The film lives in a murky moral netherworld, a world where Yun Seong is the only one who seems to care at all about the future and how to go about getting there but where all the options seem to require a choice between bad options.
Though the script feels like it was still a draft away from really nailing what writer-director Kwon really wanted to do with the material there's an interesting voice at play here. Hopefully he'll get the chance to continue to develop it in the future.