Review: 'Parasite' a cutting class structure commentary for our times

Director Bong Joon-ho's latest is one of the year's sharpest films

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The class system of the haves and the have nots is wonderfully illustrated in "Parasite," a scathing dark comedy from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. 

He takes the upstairs-downstairs metaphor to its extreme, delivering a vicious, bloody commentary on the powerful 1-percenters and everybody else that's left to fend for themselves. Joon-ho presents a parable that twists and turns and eats itself from the inside out. It's one of the year's best films, and also one of its most unshakable. 

So-dam Park and Woo-sik Choi in "Parasite."

Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is an out-of-work driver who lives with his wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) in a sub-basement apartment below street level, where outside their window they see drunks urinating in the alley above them. Their wi-fi is cut off when the neighbors they're stealing it from hide it behind a password wall. No problem: they can get a signal if they gather around the toilet and hold their phones in the air.

Put plainly, they're not exactly living the good life. But Ki-woo gets an opportunity to tutor English to the daughter of the Parks, a wealthy family living the good life inside an architecturally rich home in an exclusive neighborhood. A light bulb goes off: He dreams up a way to score his entire family jobs working for the Parks so they can leave their lousy existence behind and sponge off the rich. It will only take a little deviousness, some ingenuity, and some shavings from a peach. 

That merely sets the table for what Joon-ho has in store, and he serves up a delicious dish about class warfare from outside and from within. It's a fitting movie for our times, and Joon-ho delivers with uncompromising clarity and vision. See it before the inevitable American remake sands down all its razor sharp edges.




Rated R: for language, some violence and sexual content

Running time: 131 minutes