한국 / 액션 / 81분 / 개봉 2018.03.15
감독 : 이수성 李洙成 Soo-seong Lee
출연 : 이승용(영호), 고진수(기태), 김민(혜진), 여주영(찬미), 유지용(학수), 이정현(천길), 지웅배(진수), 송범규(윤수), 윤준호(찬호), 이창선(해철), 김윤지(영호 모)
전학생 ‘영호’는 학교 일진인 ‘기태’ 패거리가 자신의 짝인 ‘진수’의 돈을 빼앗으려 하자 시비가 붙게 된다. 그 일 이후 ‘영호’는 학교에서 주목을 받게 되고 ‘기태’ 패거리에게 불만을 가진 친구들이 곁에 모이게 되는데…
학교 일진 ‘기태’는 사사건건 전학생이면서 눈에 띄는 ‘영호’가 거슬린다. 자신의 여자친구와 함께 다니는 모습이 자주 눈에 띄고, 그러던 어느 날 영호에게 자신의 친구들이 제압당하는 모습을 보게 되는데…
Yeong-ho (played by Lee Seung-yong who looks way too old for the part) is a transfer student. There are bullies at his new high school who hustle money from weaker students via intimidation. There's a surprisingly complicated hierarchy at play here, such that I initially thought "Bullies" was going to be about the hierarchy. Alas, these dynamics are ultimately left unexplored as Yeong-ho instead runs up against mid-level enforcerer Gi-tae (played by Go Jin-soo). Long ago, these two were friends.
There's actually very little bad blood between Yeong-ho and Gi-tae in the past or present. They have no reason to fight each other, and Gi-tae even makes light entreaties to getting Yeong-ho to join the gang. But Yeong-ho just doesn't like Gi-tae anymore. Why? Well, because people change. Even if they think they're hot stuff, idiot teenagers carousing in a gazebo still look like idiot teenagers, and Yeong-ho just isn't interested in that kind of sub-culture.
Yeong-ho does like boxing though. No, "Bullies" is not a sports genre film, Yeong-ho is only barely a competent boxer and is easily beaten in the only serious boxing scene the movie has. Yeong-ho just thinks that he needs a hobby, so he hangs out at the training center. It turns out that even mediocre boxing skills are enough to let him wipe out Gi-tae and his gang of bullies, because that's the problem with bullies. They're so using to picking on people who aren't their own size, they don't know how to deal with the ones who can fight back.
This does rather muddle any attempt "Bullies" might make toward a moral point though. Because sure, Yeong-ho likes the little weenies that Gi-tae keeps extorting for money. But ultimately Yeong-ho, much like Gi-tae, likes violence for the sake of violence. I will admit that there's sort of an elegant wisdom to the idea of someone saying, you know what, forget it, peaceful conflict resolution is dumb. These guys are bullies, they don't deserve it, let's just beat them up.
Because no other alternatives are offered. Yeong-ho vacillates between sticking around and just walking away, frequently deciding to walk away for the sole purpose of being contrary. one of the odder subplots involves Hye-jin (played by Kim Min-II), a girl student who seems to be Yeong-ho's love interest, and who keeps making bad decisions in his absence. But then she decides to stand her ground, mostly because Yeong-ho has made it clear that he's sick of babysitting her.
That subplot, like the others, just sort of trails off and doesn't go anywhere. Even the main plot does this via the ending. The conflict between Yeong-ho and Gi-tae has been resolved, prompting a showdown with Gi-tae's superiors, and then the movie just ends with a long credits sequence specifically detailing who each character was. I kind of felt like I was watching a video resume, and I guess that's what "Bullies" really is. The movie is more about demonstrating the basic competence of its actors than about having an actual point. Review by William Schwartz