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Punch (완득이) is a 2011 film from South Korea, directed by Lee Han. Do Wan-Deuk is an 18-year-old student of indifferent academic accomplishment. His father Gak-seol is a hunchback. Gak-seol and his partner Min-gu, who is mentally handicapped, used to have a dance act in a cabaret, but the cabaret closes, and Gak-seol and Min-gu are left to struggle for a more difficult living dancing and selling trinkets in open-air markets. The Do family is poor, and Wan-deuk is often left to take care of himself while his father and "uncle" Min-gu go on the road to try and earn money.

Meanwhile, Wan-deuk goes to church and prays to God to kill his teacher, Lee Dong-ju. Dong-ju is gruff, abrasive, and insulting to his students, and seems to be fond of whipping out the cane to discipline students. However, beneath the hard exterior he is conscientious and cares about his students. He takes a particular interest in Wan-deuk, probably because Wan-deuk is his next-door neighbor as well as his student. One day Dong-ju comes over and tells Wan-deuk that he has found in the city register the name and location of Wan-deuk's Missing Mom, Lee Suk-gi, who has been gone since Wan-deuk was a baby. She is an immigrant from the Phillippines who left the Do home as soon as she was finished breast-feeding him. Wan-deuk and his father must then deal with the complication of Suk-gi coming back into their lives.

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Other characters include a hostile, irritating neighbor, the neighbor's attractive sister Lee Ho-jeong, and Jeong Yun-ha, the prettiest girl and best student in Dong-ju's class, who takes a liking to Wan-deuk.


Tropes in this film:

  • Coming-of-Age Story: A character study of Wan-deuk finding himself and reconciling with his mother as he's on the cusp of adulthood.
  • Corporal Punishment: Dong-ju cares about his students and wants to motivate him, but he also isn't shy about breaking out the cane.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Gak-seol wasn't exactly prosperous when he and Min-gu were cabaret dancers. After the closure of the cabaret they are having a much harder time as itinerant dancers and salesmen.
  • Happy Ending: Suk-gi comes back to live with Wan-deuk and his father. Dong-ju for his part seems to have found love with Ho-jeong. Even Ho-jeong's brother, the antagonistic neighbor, has come around and is a guest for dinner in the Do household.
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  • Hypocritical Humor: Yun-ha is hysterical and outraged after the other boys in the class have been passing around her ex-boyfriend's nude drawings of her. She sobs to Wan-deuk "Are all guys like that?", and as the words are escaping her lips, he's staring at the outline of her breasts under her school uniform.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. Wan-deuk coaxes Yun-ha into taking up kickboxing along with him. She winces in pain after punching the punching bag.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Not only does the gruff, abrasive Dong-ju reunite Wan-deuk with his mother, he also helps illegal immigrants (and gets arrested for it), gets Wan-deuk out of jail after Wan-deuk hits the obnoxious neighbor, and is a Christian minister in his spare time.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Starts with a scene of young Wan-deuk watching his father dance in the cabaret before flashing forward a decade or so.
  • Missing Mom: It isn't that clear why Suk-gi left in the first place. Apparently she just couldn't get along with Gak-seol, but after a 17-year gap they wind up reconciling.
  • No Antagonist: It's essentially a story of Wan-deuk growing up and forming a bond with his teacher Dong-ju. There is no bad guy.
  • No Name Given: The obnoxious neighbor who keeps screaming at the Do household is never named, although since his sister is named Lee Ho-jeong, his family name is presumably Lee as well.
  • Nonindicative Name: Wan-deuk does get into kickboxing, but the English title Punch implies the movie is a sports story, when it's really about Wan-deuk growing up, with his kickboxing only a secondary plot point.
  • Peeping Tom: Ho-jeong playfully accuses Dong-ju of this after he inadvertently admits to seeing her through her window. He replies that he couldn't help it, since she lives across the street and left her window open.
  • Shout-Out: Well, it may be just a coincidence that the young high school student looking for a direction in life gets into kickboxing, or it may not.
  • Stern Teacher: Dong-ju is pretty much a perfect incarnation of this, barking at his students and insulting them, but clearly trying to motivate them. He also makes pragmatic judgments about their future, as in when he excuses Wan-deuk from study hall so he can practice kickboxing. Dong-ju tells his irritated superior that Wan-deuk's grades aren't good enough for higher education anyway, so kickboxing offers him a better opportunity.
  • Street Performer: Gak-seol and Min-gu combine dancing with shilling for things like shoe insoles. It's a hard life.
  • Training Montage: There's one late in the film showing Wan-deuk practicing kickboxing.
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