My first impulse was to describe this film as a fantasy, or even an allegory, but both words suggest a more complex film than this one. Even the most light-weight fantasy constructs a meticulously detailed alternate world and even the most bare-faced allegory has its symbols at a greater remove from the things they symbolise. Instead 3-Iron feels like an idle daydream - I can almost picture Kim Ki-Duk sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and imagining that there was an angelic boy with a need to feel a part of something else who one day rescues a lonely abused women and reflecting on how nice and moving that would be.
It’s probably a pleasant thought for an afternoon but I'm not sure it makes for
a good film. Daydreams are consequence free fancies and this aspect weakens the
film. Ki-Duk shows a great reluctance to actually interrogate the troubling
aspects of his protagonist’s behaviour, instead drifting easily past the
consequences of his invasions of other peoples' lives and in the process
passing them off as freak accidents (He feels bad! It's okay!) or the results
of other peoples' failings; most frequently their inability to understand and
sympathise with the fundamental good-heartedness of the protagonist. Indeed he
doesn't interrogate his characters at all, or the situations they're in, or the
mystical abilities they find salvation in - any one of which, even on its own,
has some appeal. As a result 3-Iron drifts along in a haze of wouldn't-it-be-niceness
which would be good enough for a short, a pornographic film, an advertisement,
or a song, but is hardly enough to sustain a narrative feature.