The Air I Breathe

Synopsis: A frustrated and clumsy bank clerk overhears the conversation of three coworkers in the toilet about a fix in a horse race, and bets a large amount. He loses the bet and owes the money to the dangerous and powerful mobster Fingers. A gangster who works for Fingers has the ability of foreseeing pieces of the future; he is assigned to collect money for the boss, with his troublemaker nephew Tony, and is beaten up by a gang. The manager of pop-star Trista loses her contract to Fingers without her agreement and she is threatened by the gangster. A dedicated doctor seeks a blood donor that might have a rare blood type to save the life of his secret and unrequited passion, a beautiful epidemiologist who's married to a friend.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director(s): Jieho Lee
Production: ThinkFilm
Rotten Tomatoes:
95 min

I have always wondered when a butterfly

leaves the security of its cocoon...

does it realize how beautiful

it has become?

Or does it still sees itself

as a caterpillar?

When I was a kid, I knew the secret

of a happy life.

Play by the rules,

work hard in school.

And if you work hard in school,

your reward is... more school.

And after more school,

then you give 'em the best...

that life has to offer.

A job and money and a future...

filled with the unending

singular pursuit of more.

This is what people lived for...

...My happy life.

I envied those who never questioned it.


I need a way out.

The usual.

- Sure.

I have something that you might...

you might take a look at.

- Is there something the matter?

- No.

Your track record is perfect.

And with your uh...

stock market... luck...

We can... you could...

maybe you should invest some more.

Small amounts,

just keep it simple.


how do you do it?

Sometimes risking everything

is the only choice you have.

But you don't seem to take any...

any sort of chance.

I wasn't talking about me.

I'm sorry, you're right,

this is none of my business.

Please, don't concern

yourself piggy backing

underneath your stocks,

I would never do that.

I'm not worried. I know for a fact

that you'd never do that.

So where does change come from...

and how do we recognize it when it happens?

She's whining about it.

Saying, "Please it hurts."

I owe you one.


Hey... how's my cousin?

We're on for tonight, so listen up.

Alright... this is place is the real f***in' deal,

backrooms and everything,

so do not f*** around, we go in...

we make our bets,

we collect and get the f*** out.

The fix is in,

we have the winning horse's name.

And get this, shitheads.

The odds are eight to f***in' one.

Yeah, a sure thing.

We meet downstairs at seven.

And keep your mouths f***in' shut.

Especially you, motherf***er.

Don't worry, we're cool.

Hey, the winning horse, what's his name?

Now get this...


You want somethin'?

I want to put some money down on Butterfly...

for the next race.

Can I use this?

- Sure.

How much?

Ten... ten... thousand... dollars, please.

Wait... twenty.

How... how about uh... fifty?

You got that much scratch?

Because if you don't, you can always

borrow some from the house.

I have to see your driver's license.

Hey, Louey...

Ok, fifty G's on Butterfly.

The horses are in the gate.

And they're off. Yellow has the lead.

Alpha and Santana right behind him,

followed by Shooting Star, Perpetrator,

Butterfly and Silking Accrow.

On the inside Alpha is making a move.

He's neck-in-neck with Yellow.

Wait, here comes Butterfly.

In a surprise dash.

He passes Alpha, passes Yellow.

Butterfly takes the lead.

They go into the curve, it's Butterfly

followed by Alpha and Yellow.

My God, he's down.

Butterfly goes down, and Alpha too.

What a terrible accident.

And Yellow is at the finish.

Yellow wins.

How'd you find this place?

How'd you... I'm talking to you.

It's a simple f***ing question.

You work for the cops?

- No.

I just trying to gamble,

that's all.

You wanted to gamble?

Nobody comes to this place because

they feel like a little gambling.

I'm sorry, I didn't want to run.

I wanted...

You bet on Butterfly.

- Yes, I did.

You knew about the fix.

- No, I...

No lying. How?

Come on, you knew.

How'd you know about the fix?

I overheard my co-workers talking, and...

I love butterflies.

You love what?

- Butterflies.

I love butterflies.

He likes butterflies,

the horse's name is Butterfly, so...

He comes here and he bets on a fix.

Do you know why they call me 'Fingers'?

- No.

Mr. Potts knows why they call me Fingers.

Because two weeks ago he also came by

because he also liked... liked gambling.

You're right, I was gonna get the money

from my sister. I was gonna go pick...

He lost, and instead of paying me

what he owes me...

what does he do?

He tries to run.

- I didn't try to run.

I swear to God!

What is it with you guys?

You come here, you make a

stupid mistake and now what?

Now I gotta be the bad guy,

is that it? Is that my job? Huh?

I wanted to go to the f***in' opera,

I gotta come here and be a bad guy!

Do you think I enjoy this?

- I don't know.

Well, I don't enjoy it.

It's guys like you...

And you, Mr. Potts...

You just leave me no choice.

You do have a choice!

My sister has the money!

You have two weeks

to get me the money.

Each day you're late,

I cut off a finger.

You goin' somewhere?


Why are you packing?

No, I'm not.

- Sit down.

You work for Fingers, don't you?

You have a nice home, good job

that you're good at,

and you just threw it all away. Why?

Please, I don't know.

- Why'd you do this?

I don't know. I was stupid,

I wasn't thinking.

Why'd you do this?

Why did you do this?

- I don't know.

Yes, you do.

- No, I don't.

You do!

- I don't.

Tell me!

Take it.

Go on.

That's all I can do for you.

What should I do with this?

I don't know anymore.

Sometimes, being totally f***ed can be

a liberating experience.

Today, I see things in a new light.

I see the money move

through this place like it does every day.

I see the cameras that

will monitor my every move.

I see the panic button the tellers

will push to alert the police.

And when that button is pushed,

I know that

the police will arrive

no earlier than four minutes,

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Jieho Lee

Jieho Lee (born 1973) is a filmmaker from New York City. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1995, receiving a double degree in Cinema Studies and the College of Letters. He received an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. His film, A Nursery Tale (1999), won the Special Jury Award at the Florida Film Festival for "Best Short." Lee married actress Kim Min (née Kim Min-jeong) in 2006. They met while Kim shoots the drama series Love Story in Harvard. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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