For some reason, the rules never meant anything to David Choe growing up. As a matter of fact, the rebellious Korean-American graffiti artist could care less about his grades or the law. Instead, the troubled young truant would play hooky and shoplift to ply his craft day or night on walls all over the City of Los Angeles. This meant that he had no problem stealing cans of spray paint and trespassing in order to deface public or private property.
He explains his personal philosophy as "I just want to destroy [expletive]" with a defiant shrug in "Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe," a dizzying bio-pic representing the phenomenal directorial debut of Harry Kim. Mr. Kim trailed his restless subject around the world for eight years, with ports of call as far afield as the Congo, Israel and Japan, where David landed in jail after punching a cop in the face.
It would be easy to dismiss this irresponsible wild child as a lost cause, given how he not only stole, but forged checks to support his habit. However, when he finally sought psychological counseling, it was determined that the otherwise very talented dude was suffering from a variety of mental maladies, including schizophrenia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anti-social behavior, bipolar disorder, kleptomania and sexual addiction.
That last one cost the kid the love of a good woman, the others just added up to make his life a holy mess. Nonetheless, David Choe eventually became Born Again, went legit, got his act together, and started landing lucrative corporate contracts to design stuff like an ad for Converse sneakers and a cover for a Jay-Z CD. And he recently sold out a show of $2.5 million worth of his painting at a show in an upscale London art gallery.
An alternately frightening and exhilarating, guerilla-style documentary showcasing the downs and ups of an amoral thrill-seeker lucky enough to bottom out and find redemption before it was too late to be given a last shot at rehabilitation.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Korean with subtitles.
Running time: 93 Minutes
Studio: Upper Playground