Confucius said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” The second grave is attributed to the person who seeks revenge. Night in Paradise thematically explores the idea. In the criminal world, you can enter on your own wishes but leaving the business is never an option. A hired gun Tae-goo wishes to quit the gang and live a peaceful life, but he is the best in what he does, and no one wants to lose the ultimate weapon. The film is a struggle of power, revenge, and more importantly, redemption.
Night in Paradise (Nagwonui bam in Korean) is directed by Park Hoon-Jung, the man who wrote the screenplay for the Acclaimed Korean revenge thriller, I Saw the Devil. His film, I Saw the Devil is still applauded as one of the best revenge movies ever made where Korean movie Oldboy dominates the list. Thus, their industry is well versed with the genre, and Night in Paradise sure does hit the right notes. It keeps you hooked. Let’s dig more.
‘Night in Paradise’ Summary
Uhm Tae-goo (Park Tae-goo) is an assassin who works for Gang Boss Yang (Park Ho-san). Due to his sharp skills and merciless killing style, the leader of the rival Bukseong gang, Chairman Doh shows his interest in hiring Tae-goo. Adamant on leaving the dirty gutter soon, Tae-goo instantly rejects the offer that enrages the mob leader.
Later, we find out why Tae-goo wants to leave the mob business. His sister is severely ill and suffering from organ failure. After her death, her daughter, Tae-goo’s niece, Ji-Eun will be left without a guardian if Tae-goo keeps on running a killing spree. Tae-goo tries hard to find a donor for her sister. He himself cannot donate because they had different fathers and hence, he isn’t a suitable donor. Failure to find a donor robs Tae-goo of his peace, though, a fatal blow literally breaks him apart. He finds out that his sister and niece were murdered in a car accident.
Tae-goo’s boss, Yang informs him that Chairman Doh could have orchestrated the killing as he failed to get Tae-goo on his gang. Maybe he decided to take revenge on Tae-goo?
Tae-goo burning like an inferno enters Chairman Doh’s safe house. In a blood-shedding and gory action sequence, he kills all his men and the mastermind himself. Gang Boss Yang advises Tae-goo to take a holiday and take refuge in an isolated Jeju Island until he sorts things in the city. On the island, Tae-goo meets a pompous woman Jae-Yeon, who lives with her uncle. She is terminally ill and only has a month more to survive. Tae-goo starts a new association with her on the island while in the city, Chairman Doh’s right hand, Director Ma (Cha Seung-won) finds out about Yang’s hideous scheme to finish off Chairman Doh, in order to create his monopoly.
Director Ma sharpens his blade to kill both Yang and his man, Tae-goo to fulfil his revenge.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Night in Paradise’ Ending Explained
Spineless Gang Boss Yang sells off his man Tae-goo in order to save himself from Director Ma’s wrath. In an arrangement made by Captain Park, the head police officer, Yang complies with the compromise. As per the arrangement, Yang will hand over Tae-goo to Bukseong and settle the score. Director Ma agrees to the arrangement and both the gang arrive at Jeju Island to hunt down Tae-goo.
Living his life in isolation, Tae-goo is still not able to dodge the conflicts. He finds out that Jae-Yeon’s uncle is killed by a Russian mob. The incident breaks down Jae-Yeon. She has no hope and will leave to live any longer, but Tae-goo sparks a new belief and promises her treatment.
Before they can leave the island, Director Ma captures Jae-Yeon and one of Tae-goo’s men, compelling him to surrender himself. To save people close to his heart, Tae-goo arrives at the warehouse where Director Ma, Gang Boss Yang, and their gang are waiting for him.
Director Ma rips out Tae-goo’s guts and injects all the pain he can. But before killing him, Director Ma informs him about his dead sister. It wasn’t Chairman Doh who killed her but his own boss Yang. He was worried that if Tae-goo would leave him, his gang would become all weak.
Yang had everything worked out. He killed Tae-goo’s family and ignited the fire that destroyed Chairman Doh. He also tried to kill Director Ma but he missed the shot. A single mistake that ruined all his plot. After killing Tae-goo, Director Ma let Jae-Yeon go because he promised Tae-goo.
Jae-Yeon is standing at a crossroad. She would be dead in a month. She can either give a try to save herself with the money her uncle left or make use of the time and purify her soul. She chooses the latter, and fuels the internal fire. In a mind-blowing action sequence, Jae-Yeon arrives at a restaurant where Director Ma, Yang, and the gang are dining. She timidly bolts the door and starts firing, initiating a killing spree.
Director Ma comes out of the cabin and comments, “You got a score to settle. I respect that. Gotta do what you gotta do.” Jae-Yeon kills all the men under the roof including Director Ma and Yang. She finally gets redemption from the guilt of living without taking revenge for Tae-goo. He could have run away and saved himself but Tae-goo came back to save Jae-Yeon. She was in debt, and she paid it with blood and revenge.
In the end, when police come to arrest Jae-Yeon, she shoots herself thus ending, all the strings attached to her life.
The Chariot and the Mantis
Director Park Hoon-Jung flaunts his writing skills as he subtly introduces the theme of the film through an old Chinese proverb, a mantis trying to stop a chariot. When Chairman Doh spells out the proverb, he denotes Tae-goo as the mantis who is trying to stop a big spinning wheel, i.e. to stop the Bukseong gang.
In the film, the proverb proves its point. In vengeance, Tae-goo spins the chariot by attempting to murder Chairman Doh. But he is just a mantis, and as per the proverb, we know how the tale is going to end. The mantis is smashed by the chariot, Tae-goo is mercilessly killed by Director Ma. Tae-goo had the courage but he can’t face a tornado.
Night in Paradise is a moving tale of revenge. It depicts how one who seeks revenge can never get out clean. One ought to get his hands dirty. The film is extremely plot-heavy with alluring characters and captivating action sequences. One cannot stop falling in love with a subtle vengeance. The last action sequence is a cherry on the top. It pushes all the adrenaline that was left. And with his ending dialogue, Tae-goo wins all heart.
“You know what, I hate it when people ask If I’m okay when they know that I’m clearly not. But, it’s nice of you to ask.”
Park Hoon-Jung is a master of revenge thrillers. At some instances, mostly in the action sequences, he surpassed his acclaimed I Saw the Devil. While the latter has a balanced narrative that creates empathy for the antagonist as well, Night in Paradise is a heroic tale. It is more on the entertaining side and what it aims at doing, it achieves magnificently. It keeps you indulged in the narrative and hooks your attention. The bloodshed, the gunshots, and the knife splash, each move is precisely orchestrated. Koreans do have their way with action and thriller.
Night in Paradise (Nagwonui bam in Korean) is a 2020 Action Thriller film available in both English and Korean language. It is streaming on Netflix.
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