The literal translation of the Korean title of this saga-"mean streets"-rings true for one low-level gangster torn between two worlds. Byong Doo is young, good-looking and bold, but somehow stuck in the bottom ranks of the petty criminal hierarchy, making a living from collecting debts. Burdened with the task of caring for his siblings and his ailing widowed mother, he sets his sights on the top rungs of Seoul's dirty ladder of underworld activity. Seizing an opportune moment to win the trust of bigwig Hwang, Beyong doo volunteers to get rid of a corrupt lawyer who is on the verge of exposing Hwang's shady dealings. But to do so he must also kill anyone who gets in his way, including his immediate superior. As impetuous and risky as the young man's new mission is, he finds the real danger when he reconnects with a childhood friend, a fledgling filmmaker who uses their friendship to frame the work of his film, and his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful, yet troubled Hyun-Joo. Byong doo is living two lives, until they collide in catastrophe. In this complex story, layered with rich characters, director Ha Yoo skillfully depicts the rise and fall of a conflicted man-a gangster whose needs and ambitions bind him to a life and culture where loyalty and respect are demanded, but never returned.
Former poet HA YOO made his film debut in 1993 with On a Windy Day We Must Go to Apgujeong, which is also the title of one of his poems. Ten years later, his second film, Marriage is a Crazy Thing, won praise from critics and the public alike for its provocative view of married life. In 2004, Yoo's critique of the Korean school system, Once Upon a Time in High School: Spirit of Jeet Kune Do, attracted three million viewers nationwide. With A Dirty Carnival he shifts his preoccupations to the world of gangster violence, a subject that has interested him since he was a teenager growing up under the military rule of 1980's Korea.