Birdcage Inn (1998) Review

"Birdcage Inn" International Theatrical Poster

"Birdcage Inn" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Lee Kwang-Min, Yoo Hee-Suk
Cast: Lee Ji-Eun, Lee Hye-Eun, Ahn Jae-Mo, Jeong Hyeong-Gi, Son Min-Seok, Jang Dong-Jik, Lee In-Ok, Jang Hang-Seon, Bang Eun-Jin, Seo Won
Running Time: 103 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

From the lurid-mind of director Kim Ki-Duk comes yet another film exploring the gritty world of sex-for-sale. I haven’t seen all of his films, but I have seen enough to make the simple observation that the guy has some kind of obsession telling stories that revolve around the business of prostitution. For a director like Kim Ki-Duk, it’s never bad thing. Though films like “The Isle”, “Bad Guy”, and “Birdcage Inn” share a similar element in their plots, each one stands on it’s own originality.

“Birdcage Inn” is a story about Jina, the new call girl at the Birdcage Inn. The Birdcage Inn is a hotel that is operated by a poor family – a father, mother and their two kids. The family relies on Jina’s income as a whore to pay the expenses that keep the hotel alive for business; as well as putting food on the table. Still, the family is barely getting by and practically living very low-class. There’s not much known about Jina, but one thing is clear, she’s not happy with her job status (is there a whore who is?). When Jina’s not working, she takes the time to enjoy the beauty of looking at the ocean. Jina is also a terrific artist, but God only knows why she doesn’t use her artistic talents instead of selling her body. It’s apparent that Jina is obviously torn from something that happened in her unexplainable past.

Hyemi, the daughter of the family, resents Jina from the beginning. Not only does Hyemi hate the fact that her family runs such a scummy business, but she blames Jina for being the primary tool. Jina notices Hyemi’s rude attitude towards her, but still tries to win her affection by doing nice things for her and buying her items she can’t afford. Still, Hyemi doesn’t budge. The plot thickens when unexpected things *cough* start to happen: Jina’s old pimp shows up out of the blue demanding that he still gets a cut of her earnings, Hyemi’s young brother develops a small crush on her which leads to trouble, Jina gets involved with an Andy Lau-wannabe (I had to mention this), and worst of all, Hyemi’s boyfriend gets in between Hyemi and Jina.

So far, “Birdcage Inn” is the most straight-forward, softest, and viewer-friendly of all of Kim Ki-Duk’s work. Sure, you still get the brief sex scenes, beatings (it’s not a Korean film without a few slaps and punches), and downbeat situations. For the most part, the film is definitely on a linear-dramatic level which may have been the main problem with the film. How can I not expect a few shocks here and there after seeing his previous films that set the standard for Kim Ki-Duk’s work? Those damn expectations ruin it for ya each time, I tell ya.

“Birdcage Inn” isn’t a bad film, I was just expecting something big to happen, but it never did – at least in my eyes. The cast was great, the direction was fine, but the story needed something. Overall, “Birdcage Inn” was a disappointment. If you want to see what Kim Ki-Duk can really do, try “The Isle”.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10

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