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'Night in Paradise' offers rare glimpses of tranquility amid bloody gang war

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From left, actors Um Tae-goo, Jeon Yeo-been and Cha Seoung-won pose during a press conference for
From left, actors Um Tae-goo, Jeon Yeo-been and Cha Seoung-won pose during a press conference for "Night in Paradise" on Jeju Island, Friday. Courtesy of Netflix

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Writer-director Park Hoon-jung's new film, "Night in Paradise," is a noir-themed crime thriller that deviates from conventional gangster movies. It places a superheroine at the forefront and offers rare glimpses of tranquility amid a bloody gang war.

Park, whose screenwriting credits include "I Saw the Devil" (2010) and "The Unjust" (2010), previously directed the gangland crime drama "New World" (2013) and the female-centered heroine franchise film "The Witch: Park 1. The Subversion" (2018).

The film revolves around a mobster named Tae-goo (Um Tae-goo) who is being chased by organized crime gangs. He flees to Jeju Island and meets Jae-yeon (Jeon Yeo-been), a mysterious woman with impressive sharpshooting skills, but who is suffering from a terminal illness. Cha Seoung-won plays gang chief Ma, who is intimidating but funny.

Park said he chose to set the film in Jeju because he wanted to spotlight its natural beauty, yet draw the picture of a tragic story on the island.

"One day, the cinematographer sent me a photo of a palm tree in the moonlight swaying in the strong wind. That was exactly the image I had about the film. I wanted it to be beautiful but sad. When I see something beautiful, I feel painfully sad and ask myself, 'When will I be able to see this again?' I hope the audience feels the irony coming from the background and the story," he said during a recent press conference for the film.

"Night in Paradise" was the only Korean film to be invited to the 77th Venice International Film Festival's out-of-competition section. On being touted as, "One of best gangster movies coming from South Korean cinema in recent years," by festival director Alberto Barbera, Park said, "I thought I must have done something good in a past life. I was very lucky."

Cha said he is proud to have been invited to Venice, saying, "It's a pity that we couldn't physically make it to the festival. It would have been really nice to walk the red carpet and engage with film enthusiasts."

Actor Um Tae-goo in a scene from
Actor Um Tae-goo in a scene from "Night in Paradise" / Courtesy of Netflix

Um said that he took the role because he wanted to work with director Park. He gained 9 kilograms to play the troubled Tae-goo in "Night in Paradise," and to perform the brutal, bloody action scenes.

"Most of all, it was interesting to play a character with the same name as me. I asked director Park later if he took it from my name, but his answer was 'no,'" he laughed.

"I personally don't like doing action sequences because it's painful. However, my preference doesn't necessarily affect my film choice. I loved the script and have always wanted to work with Park. Thanks to the amazing stunt team, I was able to shoot action scenes safely," he said.

Jeon, who instantly rose to stardom with "After My Death" (2018) and is currently starring in the hit tvN drama series "Vincenzo" alongside Song Joong-ki, talked about how "Night in Paradise" differs from other conventional noir-themed films as well as her relationship with Um on set.

"I've always admired Hong Kong noir films, and from an early age, I've wanted to be in those films. Unlike other noir-themed films, in which female characters are marginalized, Jae-yeon takes the center stage in 'Night in Paradise,'" she said.

The 32-year-old actress said she became close friends with Um. "We became very good friends thanks to director Park, who frequently took us out for lunch and dinner. We realized that we have similar attitude toward acting," she said.

"Night in Paradise" will be available on Netflix starting on April 9.

Kwak Yeon-soo yeons.kwak@koreatimes.co.kr


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