Oct 3, 2012
geroshabu (All reviews)
I kind of know that there's a problem when I catch myself sitting through a film and feeling worn out and put off by its rampant misanthropy. "The King of Pigs" is likely one of the worst and most tiresome offenders I have ever encountered along these lines. It's all pretty damned vile no matter which way you approach it. I feel hesitant to even write about this, as I'd rather not provide some sort of morbid and unintentional recommendation for the dishearteningly large number of people out there who will seek out anything which is decidedly "EXTREME" in content. I can't stand the prevalent attitude that this alone somehow denotes worth or is reason enough to spark an interest. Perhaps you can identify yourself among this crowd as you are reading this, at which point I would encourage you to grow up and mature past this phase as soon as possible, although I also realize how ineffective any such appeals will be. "The King of Pigs" seems best suited for this intellectually and emotionally stunted sort of audience and... not much of anyone else, really. There is an unflinchingly gratuitous scene of fatal and repeated animal abuse which is dragged out for all its worth, reaching the artistic equivalent of any and all trashy teenage gore blogs. I have absolutely nothing against extreme storytelling or explicit content, but there is little more that I despise than such distinctions being used as an illusory crutch in place of any actual depth, originality, or purpose.

"The King of Pigs" is a South Korean CGI feature with highly inconsistent production values, but in all honesty, that's not something that I actually hold against it. It doesn't seek to be a glossy anime-style production, so it mostly avoids the inherent pitfalls to the approach suffered from works like the recent "Berserk" films. If anything, the aesthetic is more along the lines of animated art house successes such as "Waltz with Bashir," or even the rotoscoped Linklater films (albeit with far less technical care and certainly weaker scripts to build upon). I tried hard to justify "Pigs'" content for the duration of the film, as there are occasional flourishes which did appeal to me, but at a certain point, it just becomes an exhausting and monotonous drag.

The film opens with a static shot of a freshly strangled woman, her murderous husband serving as one half of its thematic focus. The other lead is then introduced as an unsuccessful ghostwriter, venting his frustrations through the seemingly routine emotional and physical abuse of his girlfriend. Things only go downhill from there, too. After the former calls upon his similarly abject childhood friend for the first time since their first year of middle school, they recall the traumatizing events that we're led to believe shaped the course of their lives. There's no real message to any of the film aside from the fact that people are awful by nature and that's that. The bullying the young men experience is increasingly cruel and difficult to watch, and like everything else in the film, is as such for the sake of being cruel and difficult to watch.

I think that the most irreconcilable turn the film makes is its apparent and absolute exoneration of the evils both men would later perpetuate on the grounds of their soiled childhoods. In this regard, the film veers from being merely un-enjoyable and celebratory in its grimness into territory which is nothing short of morally irresponsible. Violence begets violence, thus effectively removing any responsibility from the destructive men themselves. In school, the boys rally around a third figure, one who lashes back at their tormentors in ways which grow increasingly gruesome as the running time wears on. In case you haven't yet caught on, that really is the entire modus operandi at play here. I understand that such things are widely open to interpretation, but I would argue that the film's treatment of this backlash is one which not only condones but celebrates the notion of harsh retributive violence.

As I stated, I wanted for a long time (far longer than it deserved) to like this movie, to find something which would justify all of my stated misgivings. Unfortunately, it didn't want to give me much to work with on that quest. There is simply nothing about the story that feels particularly necessary. I think it's important to reinforce just how much this movie revels in its own ugliness. It stops trying to do much of anything else pretty early on.

Admittedly, there are a few well-devised plot twists and turns, jumping back and forth chronologically as it does between the aforementioned childhood recollections and scenes of the two men drinking and then wandering the same locations as adults. It's not an incompetent film, merely a wildly misguided one whose lofty and undeserved self-assurance permeates most every frame. The closing moment alone instantly became one of the most heavy-handed and indulgent bull**** turns I've ever seen a movie take, and let it be known that I have a remarkably high tolerance for heavy-handed and indulgent bull**** movies. Is it art? Yeah, sure, whatever, I don't care, but I certainly don't think it's particularly good or worthwhile art. I regret giving it the benefit of a doubt for even a minute, as well as allowing it to occupy my evening. It's pretty rare that I see something and feel compelled to so immediately broadcast my distaste for it, but it's also pretty rare that I see films as all-around horrid as "The King of Pigs."