“One familiar with Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s recent work will not be surprised by his latest film which opened the Venice Days section,” sighs Ambrož Pivk at the International Cinephile Society. “It’s as violent as expected and just as empty and pretentious.”
“In 2012, Kim Ki-duk picked up the top prize at the Venice Film Festival for Pieta, a brutal story of rape and redemption,” writes Kaleem Aftab for Indiewire. “Last year he landed on the Lido with the dialogue-free Moebius, a film more commonly referred to as ‘that castration movie.’ His new film, One on One, seems mild by comparison, even though the pre-credit sequence features a schoolgirl getting abducted and killed by a group of unidentified strangers. The ensuing murder-revenge thriller is still not for the faint-hearted, but this time out the South Korean director seems more interested in giving a state of the nation address rather than adding to his repertoire of shocking scenes.”
“Kim sets out his social agenda very clearly early on in the film,” writes Pierce Conran at Twitch. “Following the violent kidnapping in the opening scene, the film switches to a young couple enjoying a fancy meal in a chic Seoul restaurant. The man basks in his success, extolling the value of doing everything that is asked for at work, regardless of personal ethics. At the same time he talks down to the wait staff (as well as his girlfriend), clearly thinking himself cut from finer cloth. The social commentary, as it relates to contemporary South Korea, is apt but its inclusion is none-too-subtle, even for a filmmaker as direct and abrasive as Kim.”
Variety‘s Guy Lodge suggests that “a return to wordless storytelling (also carried off with aplomb by Kim in 3-Iron) may be in order after One on One, which wields dialogue as blunt and heavy as the instruments used to exert grievous, and copious, bodily harm onscreen—particularly in the script’s strange, stiff segues into English. ‘Now I’m just a blood-sucking, miserable leech!’ wails one character. ‘All human beings are so sad—isn’t life exhausting and hard?’ ponders another. Kim ensures that little goes unsaid between his characters in their frequent, repetitively shrill confrontations, unless you count the story’s political subtext, which is at once vague and articulated with minimal subtlety.”
“Even Kim’s trademark violence seems halfhearted here,” finds Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter.