Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The lineage of this film is a little unusual: it's a 2005 Korean production with Korean actors, the stunt team is from Hong Kong, the movie was filmed in China, and the screenwriter is someone named Paul Sheen, who has no other credits that I can find.
It's no surprise, therefore, that the result is something of a mishmash. It's not bad, in fact the movie's a lot of fun in a no-holds-barred, makes-no-sense kind of way, but it doesn't have anything that I haven't seem somewhere else, done better.
The Kingdom of Balhae (one of those that eventually became Korea) has largely been overrun by the Khitan barbarians. They've sent their Killer Blade Army to murder the various members of the Balhae royal family. The Killer Blade Army is composed of outlawed or exiled Balhaeans, and is led by Gun Hwa-Pyung (Hyeon Jun-Shin), a moody young fellow with a personal grudge against the royals. He's assisted by his murderous girlfriend, who--- like everyone else in the Killer Blade Army--- possesses various superpowers, including gravity-optional martial arts, the ability to fight underwater, and flight.
It's not surprising that the Killer Blade Army goes through the royal family like a claymore through goat cheese. Eventually there's only one left, a prince named Daejeonghyun (Lee Sio-Jin), who has been exiled due to an unspecified scandal. The problem is that no one knows where the prince actually is, so wise old General Ju sends Balhae's best fighter, a young woman named Soha (Yoon So-Yi), to find the prince.
Naturally the Killer Blade Army's looking for him, too. Soha's problem is that the prince has got himself a nice, raffish life as a receiver of stolen goods, and is understandably reluctant to become the king of Balhae, a job that comes with a death sentence attached. So Soha has to drag the reluctant royal across the country, evading his escape attempts while fending off hordes of assassins.
Much fighting ensues. The film is more or less a string of set-piece combat scenes, all of them spectacular. There is a fight on the road, a fight in a tavern, a fight in a temple, a fight underwater, a fight in a graveyard, a fight in the air. The Hong Kong stunt team brought their entire arsenal with them--- we see acrobatics, flight, people being hurled through the air, villains stomping their foot to cause small but fierce earthquakes, Soha waving her sword underwater to create a whirlpool that sucks her enemies to their doom . . . I'm sure I'm leaving something out.
But there's a problem with the special effects, stated thus: "In a world in which everyone can fly, flight loses its wonder." Sometimes I just wanted them to do some plain old kung-fu, but no, the movie kept piling one wonder atop the next until I lost track, and then lost interest.
It should also be noted that Yoon So-Yi is really beautiful, but not much of an actress.
As for the ending, it can go one of two ways. Either the prince escapes his escort, returns briefly to his louche life until tracked down by the villains and is killed; or he discovers his inherently noble princely nature, unveils the martial skill he's kept hidden all these years, defeats the bad guys, and becomes a great king.
Which do you think?