A Better Tomorrow (2010 film)

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A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow (2010 film) film poster.jpg
Promotion poster for A Better Tomorrow
Revised Romanization Mujeokja
McCune–Reischauer Muchŏkcha
Directed by Song Hae-sung
Produced by Park, Hyung Jun
Screenplay by
  • Kim Hyo-seok
  • Lee Taek-gyeong
  • Choi Geun-mo
  • Kim Hae-gon
Story by Jo Chang-ho
Music by Lee Jae-jin
Cinematography Kang Seung-ki
Edited by Park Gok-ji
Fingerprint Pictures
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Release date
  • 16 September 2010 (2010-09-16)
Running time
124 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Box office US$10,751,422[1]

A Better Tomorrow (Hangul무적자; RRMujeokja; lit. "Invincible") is a 2010 South Korean contemporary gangster drama film, starring Joo Jin-mo, Song Seung-heon, Kim Kang-woo and Jo Han-sun.[2][3] It is an official remake of the 1986 Hong Kong film A Better Tomorrow. It was directed by Song Hae-sung and produced by Fingerprint Pictures. John Woo, who directed the original 1986 version, acted as executive producer.

The film premiered as part of Special Events at the 67th Venice International Film Festival on September 2, 2010, where it was introduced by John Woo, as having "its own character and own soul, and many new elements."[4] It was released in theaters on September 16, 2010.[5]


Kim Hyuk (Joo Jin-mo) is a detective in the South Korean National Police Agency, having escaped from North Korea as a teenager. Unbeknownst to his superiors, he also works as an illegal arms smuggler with his best friend and partner in crime, Lee Young-choon (Song Seung-heon), who also defected from the North.

Hyuk has a younger brother, Chul (Kim Kang-woo), whom he was forced to leave behind (along with their mother) during his escape. Guilt-ridden over leaving his brother behind, Hyuk has spent the past few years searching for his brother. Eventually, he finds Chul in an internment camp but Chul resents Hyuk for leaving behind the family to escape. It is then revealed that their mother was killed sometime after Hyuk's escape.

Hyuk goes to Thailand to complete an arms deal, accompanied by Jung Tae-min (Jo Han-sun), a new member of the smuggling operation. However they were double-crossed by Jung and the Thai gang. Jung escapes, while Hyuk is captured and sentenced to prison for three years. After reading about Hyuk's capture in the newspaper, Lee finds the Thai gangster in a massage parlor and kills him and his henchmen. However, in the ensuing gunfight, he is shot in the knee and crippled.

After Hyuk is released from custody. Remorseful and determined to start a new life, he finds work as a taxi driver. Meanwhile, Chul has become an officer in the National Police and Jung has become the leader of the arms smuggling operation, while Lee does odd jobs to survive. During an emotional reunion, Lee asks Hyuk to return to the underworld to take revenge on Jung, but Hyuk refuses.

Hyuk seeks Chul out, hoping for a reconciliation, but Chul rebuffs him, seeing Hyuk as nothing but a criminal and still resentful that Hyuk left the family in North Korea. Jung finds Hyuk and presses him to rejoin the organization, offering to bring Young-choon along if Hyuk rejoins, but Hyuk refuses. Meanwhile, Chul is obsessed with arresting Jung and bringing down the arms operation. After Jung has Young-choon beaten and threatens to harm Chul, Hyuk decides to join Young-choon in taking revenge on Jung. Hyuk and Young-choon steal incriminating evidence from the smuggling business and use it to ransom Jung in exchange for money and an escape boat. However, Hyuk has given the evidence to the police. Using Jung as a hostage, Hyuk and Young-choon take the money to a pier, intending to escape in the boat. Meanwhile, having followed his brother, Chul arrives on the scene but is captured by Jung's men. Even though he is free to escape, Hyuk decides to return to save Chul and asks Young-choon to leave on his own.

Hyuk returns and offers to exchange Jung for Chul, but the trade explodes into a wild shootout. Hyuk and Chul are wounded and pinned down, but saved by Young-choon, who turned the boat around out of loyalty to Hyuk. After killing many of Jung's men, Young-choon berates Chul, telling him that he should be grateful to have a brother like Hyuk. Young-choon is in turn gunned down by Jung's men. The police arrive and begin arresting Jung's men. Jung evades capture and escapes into a steelyard. Hyuk and Chul chase after him, but Hyuk is shot and killed when he shields Chul from Jung's gunfire. Jung mocks Chul and prepares to surrender to the surrounding police. Despite warnings from the police to drop his weapon, Chul shoots and kills Jung. As the police advance, Chul cradles his brother's body in his arms and tearfully laments that he missed him. He aims his gun to his head and the scene cuts to black as a single gunshot is heard.


Differences between remake and original[edit]

  • The protagonists are arms traffickers as opposed to counterfeiters.
  • Kim Hyuk is a police officer who moonlights as an illegal arms trafficker, whereas his counterpart in the original, Sung Chi-ho was not involved in law enforcement.
  • Chul is hostile and resentful towards Hyuk for his perceived abandonment as a teenager whereas Ho and Kit have a close fraternal relationship until Ho's arrest.
  • Young-choon is shown to be suspicious of Jung's motives, and Hyuk witnesses Jung's betrayal during the deal. In the original, Shing's duplicity is not revealed until much later in the film.
  • Unlike Kit, Chul does not have a girlfriend, hence no female roles.
  • It is implied that Young-choon works for himself (doing odd jobs) after being crippled whereas Mark is shown to work for Shing in the original.
  • Young-choon is shot and killed by a multitude of Jung's men whereas Mark was killed by Shing (and his right-hand man) directly.
  • Hyuk and Chul die in the remake whereas Ho and Kit both survive the final showdown and successfully reconcile in the original.


In Korea, the film ranked second and grossed over ₩2.8 billion in its first week of release,[8] and grossed a total of ₩11 billion after six weeks of screening.[9] The film sold a total of 1,546,420 tickets nationwide.[10] In Japan it ranked #11 and grossed over ¥19 million in its one week of release on 103 screens.[11]

Film Business Asia gave the film a five out of ten rating, opining that "there's plenty of South Korean machismo (with none of the lightness and humour of its Hong Kong equivalent) and a much darker emotional core, with some intense male bonding ... making this an oppressively all-male affair, heightened by the saturated photography and in-your-face action."[4][12]

Remake Anthology[edit]

A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Aatish (1994)
A Better Tomorrow (2010)
John Woo Sanjay Gupta Song Hae-sung


  1. ^ "Mujeogja (A Better Tomorrow) (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  2. ^ Lee, Hyo-won (17 August 2010). "Tomorrow remake to bring macho drama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  3. ^ Lee, Ji-hye (9 September 2010). "Song Seung-heon Invincible will be "lucky to break even"". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  4. ^ a b Elley, Derek (8 September 2010). "A Better Tomorrow 무적자". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  5. ^ "A Better Tomorrow (2010) Mu-jeok-ja". Korean Film Biz Zone. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
  6. ^ Kang, Geyong-rok (2 September 2010). "Song Seung-heon says wants to dine with Girls' Generation and Kara". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  7. ^ Lee, Jong-gil (9 September 2010). "Jo Han-sun will "miss baby daughter a lot" in military". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  8. ^ "South Korea Box Office: September 17–19, 2010". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  9. ^ "South Korea Box Office: October 22–24, 2010". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  10. ^ "Theatrical Releases in 2010: Box-Office Admission Results". Koreanfilm.org. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  11. ^ "Japan Box Office: February 19–20, 2011". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  12. ^ Lee, Hyo-won (9 September 2010). "Tomorrow ripe with Korean-style drama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 

External links[edit]