If you have picked the film just because of the unusual combination of a girl and a bulldozer (no, I am not trying to be sexist) in the title and are expecting it to be power-packed with action, then it might disappoint you. Directed by Park Ri-Woong, “The Girl On A Bulldozer” is not a typical commercial film made for the purpose of only entertaining you but actually depicts the struggle of debt-ridden people and how the rich lenders take advantage of it. Surely, there are already several films made about indebted human beings, but what makes this movie stand out from others is its unexpected climax.
Why Did Hye-Young Hate Her Dad?
The film opens with a courtroom set up where the protagonist, Gu Hye-Young, is released from charges of assault in a convenience store. However, given her history of assault, the court orders her to take a 10-hour anti-violence class and 40 hours of vocational training. As intended, the opening scene was enough to educate the audience about the rebellious nature of Hye-Young.
Hye-Young lives with her father, Gu Bon-Jin, who runs a Chinese restaurant named Pirate Jjamppong, and her younger brother, Hye-Jeok. They do not have a proper home and reside on the restaurant’s first floor. One morning, while Hye-Young was leaving the restaurant, her father met with an accident in the kitchen and burned his left hand. She immediately takes her dad to the hospital along with her brother, and after the consultation, the hospital hands her a bill worth $870 for just bandaging the burnt area.
Because of the unavailability of medical insurance, she reluctantly tries to pay the bill with her dad’s credit card, but the transaction fails as the card is maxed out. She gets into an argument with her dad and blames him for spending all the money on horse betting. At this point, we get to know that Hye-Young was not very close to her dad and shared a dysfunctional relationship with him. Bon-Jin tries to convince her that he doesn’t do betting anymore and that she can wire the money to the bank from her own account, which he would pay back later. He also tells her to renew the medical insurance so that they can claim the medical expenses later from their insurance company.
Back at the restaurant, Hye-Young helps her younger brother wash his hair and tries to educate him not to become a loser like their father. Despite Hye-Young’s rugged and furious personality, we see her softer side and the cute chemistry she shares with her brother.
The next day, while attending her vocational class, Hye-Young receives a call from a police inspector who informs her that Bon-Jin has assaulted someone and is on the run. She ignores the inspector and hangs up the phone. However, at night, while serving dinner to her brother, the police arrive at her restaurant. They tell Hye-Young that their dad has had an accident and has been admitted to the hospital.
She rushes to the hospital and sees her father lying unconscious in a bed. There, she meets the same inspector who had told her about her dad’s assault case. The inspector hands her over the belongings of Bon-Jin that he had collected from the accident site and asks her to notify him when Bon-Jin regains consciousness. Later, a man named Kim In-Yeong from Samhwa Insurance walks over to her and tells her that since her dad didn’t have any insurance, she has to pay the damages to the victims. Nevertheless, after finding out that he had hit two victims in the car accident, Hye-Young storms out of there and tells the insurance executive to take the money from her dad once he wakes up.
As a part of her vocational training, Hye-Young was expected to operate a bulldozer. However, on the field where many of her classmates struggled to drive the machine, she effortlessly drove the bulldozer around as if she had been driving it for ages. There she receives a call from her dad’s lenders, who keeps asking about his whereabouts.
She returns back to her restaurant to find three people inspecting her place and talking about renovating it. One of the people tells her that she has to move out of the restaurant as it has been bought by its previous owner’s nephew. She soon realizes that her dad is in deep debt. However, she still throws them out of the restaurant by threatening them with a knife.
Next, she reaches the hospital to meet her dad, only to find out that her dad had to undergo emergency surgery because of his deteriorating vitals. After the operation, the doctor tells Hye-Young that her dad is brain dead and they will conduct a few more tests as a last attempt to revive him. At the hospital, Hye-Young goes through her dad’s belongings and finds a few voice recordings on the phone. She also noticed that he had made multiple phone calls to a number that belonged to her previous employer, Choi Young-Hwan from Korea Equipment Trading.
Hye-Young visits the accident site and observes that there was no crossover at the accident spot. She realizes that maybe it was the victims who ran in front of the car, and in an attempt to save them, her dad crashed the car.
Did Hye-Young Have To Move Out Of The Restaurant? Was She Able To Fight Back With Her Dad’s Politically Strong Lender?
Hye-Young meets the victims, a woman, and her boyfriend, at the hospital and questions them about the accident and how it happened. However, she doesn’t get any proper response from them; instead, the mother of the male victim tells her that it was her father who was drunk and driving. Hye-young realizes that something fishy is going on and eventually finds out that the female victim was faking her injury and that the band aid she had on her arms was just a prop.
She immediately visits the police station to report what she saw. Nevertheless, the inspector tells her that her father was in deep debt and, because he renewed his life insurance just a day before the accident, it strongly appears to be a case of suicide. Still, the inspector assured her that they would investigate her claim and try to find the truth.
After failing to bring out the truth from the victims, Hye-Young visits the Korea Equipment Trading office where her father used to work eight years ago. As per police, it was Korea Equipment Trading’s chairman, Choi Yeong-hwan, whose car Bon-jin was driving. She asks Choi about what happened at his office that triggered her father to steal his car and run away. Choi, who was also preparing for a local election, tells her that the land on which they run their restaurant belongs to him and that he had given it to her father on lease. However, their lease recently expired, and he wanted them to move out of that place.
At the restaurant, while going through her dad’s phone again, she finds another recording that was taken on the day of the accident. She listens to it and finds out that her dad and Choi had a serious argument related to the extension of the lease. She also finds out how Choi tricked her father into spending $500,000 on constructing the restaurant’s second floor and assures him that he could run it for 10 to 20 years. Moreover, Choi had told him that his company has a policy of giving properties only for two years of a lease. Hence, they didn’t do any paperwork, and Choi gave him the restaurant land just on a promise.
The next day, Hye-Young meets Choi, and she threatens him that she will leak the audio if he doesn’t allow them to stay at the restaurant. However, Bon-jin’s associates grab her and break the phone with the recording in it.
Did Gu Bon-Jin Really Commit Suicide?
Hye-Young meets her uncle and asks him why he came to meet her father on the morning of the accident. On pressurizing, he tells her that he came to offer him $20,000 to move out of the restaurant. He also adds that the money was offered on behalf of Choi. He warns her that she should move out of the restaurant for her and her brother’s safety as she will never be able to fight against a powerful man like Choi.
Burning with anger, Hye-Young reaches the place where Choi was conducting his political rally. She slaps him in front of the public and is immediately detained by the police. However, Choi gets her out on bail and offers her some money to keep her mouth shut. Hye-Young takes the money with her and enters Choi’s house forcibly to burn the money.
As she returns to her restaurant, she finds out that her brother is being kept in captivity by some of her old rivals. In an attempt to rescue her brother, Hye-Young gets into a fight with a man who beats her mercilessly and leaves from there. After gathering herself up, she tells her brother that she has failed to take care of the family and has lost her strength to fight. Anyway, Hye-Young’s brother consoles her and signals toward the dragon tattoo she had on her arm in an attempt to make her realize her strengths.
‘The Girl On A Bulldozer’ Ending Explained: Did Hye-Young Get The Insurance Money?
In a turn of events, Hye-Young leaves her brother at her aunt’s place to keep him out of any mess. Next, she steals a bulldozer from Korean Equipment Trading and drives it all the way to Choi’s building, and destroys his apartment while he is sleeping inside it. Immediately, police arrived at the spot and shot Hye-Young to make her stop.
Eighteen months later, Hye-Young comes out of jail and begins to lead a normal life with her brother. She has taken up a food delivery executive job and now lives in a small rented room. She meets the male victim who got injured in the car accident involving her dad and asks him about what exactly happened on the night of the accident. After some hesitation, he tells her that it was because of him that her father died. He was drunk and was crossing the road carelessly when he, unfortunately, came in front of his dad’s car. She doesn’t speak anything to him and simply walks away from there as she finally gets closer to the mystery behind her dad’s death.
One fine day, while on duty, she receives a call from Park Song-ok, an agent of Korea insurance. She tells her that after a thorough investigation of her father’s case, they had found them eligible to receive the life insurance money that Bon-Jin had taken before his death and that she had wired an amount of nearly $450,000 to her account.
Hats off to the director that he gave the film a very realistic approach and didn’t end the film on a good over bad victory note. Although the protagonist gave a tough fight, they still lost the fight against a wealthy and privileged society, which is what happens in the real world most of the time.
“The Girl on a Bulldozer” is a 2022 social drama South Korean film written and directed by Park Yi-woong.