Crocodile (1996) by Kim Ki-duk

The debut film from internationally acclaimed writer and director Kim Ki-duk


 The debut film from internationally acclaimed writer and director Kim Ki-duk

Crocodile is a pseudonym for an ill tempered and violent homeless man who makes his living off of robbing corpses, peddling and running street scams. He lives with two other destitute's, a young boy named Yang-byul, who helps him with some of his work, and an elderly can collector they refer to as Grandfather.

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Their lives change when Crocodile chooses to rescue a young female named Hyun-jung, after a botched suicide attempt. Hyun-jung, unwilling to return to her previous life, ends up living with the three, playing the role of a submissive partner to Crocodile, while the other two constantly try to protect her and keep her in high spirits. As more information comes up about her past the three get involved in different and ultimately tragic ways. Throughout the story we also learn the devious behaviors of Crocodile, getting himself involved with shady individuals, and almost always coming up short. Crocodile slowly begins to warm up and become less callous and cruel to the other characters, but ultimately still has to struggle because of the choices he has made in life.


Although the productions visuals are somewhat limited by the budget, there is still an amount of visual flair to be found here that can be seen as a prelude to Ki-duk's most critically acclaimed work. The underwater shots, particularly come to mind and have become somewhat iconic in the film, which is a great feat for a directorial debut. However, a lot of the film is shot either at the encampment made by the derelict trio or shot in close in the parks where Crocodile and Yang-byul go to peddle and scam the public. Although none of these scenes are poorly shot, one might be disappointed when compared to some of the other director's works which have a heavy focus on visual storytelling.

Cho Jae-Hyun, whom would go on to work with Kim Ki-duk on multiple productions, does a great job as the ill tempered Crocodile. He is able to create a believable and engaging violent persona. The rest of the cast does an adequate job. Woo Yun-Kyeong who plays  Hyun-jung is a rather silent character, and although Kim Ki-Duk is exceptional at creating strong personalities with the use of little to no dialogue, her performance fell a bit flat for me. Personally, it is always difficult me to grade child actors' performances but I did enjoy the dynamic between Yang-bhul and Crocodile as they worked together on various scams, or were at odds over Hyun-jung. Jeon My-song who plays the grandfather did not get much story, but his constant presence in the group was welcome, bringing a sense of values tied to his generation.


To me, this film highlights many aspects that director Kim-Ki-duk would improve on to become the acclaimed director that he is. This is by no means a slight against the film as I believe fans of his work will find this to be an enjoyable entry in his filmography. However, I would recommend such films as "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring." "Pieta" "Moebius" and "3 iron" to get an overall view of Kim Ki-duk's abilities as a director. If you have already seen any of the above mentioned and enjoyed them, then consider Crocodile essential viewing.


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Asian Film Vault: Crocodile (1996) by Kim Ki-duk
Crocodile (1996) by Kim Ki-duk
The debut film from internationally acclaimed writer and director Kim Ki-duk
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