Jo Yoon, played by Kang Dong Won in the movie ‘Kundo: Age of the Rampant’, was present in London last night (6/11). Photo: ODEON
LONDON (6/11) — Making a grander return with a total of 55 movies spanning for the 9th London Korean Film Festival (LKFF), director Yoon Jong-Bin‘s dream of releasing a movie that is made out of childhood memories and dreams of becoming the greatest fighter is unleashed in his latest movie release, ‘Kundo: Age of the Rampant’. Don’t get the title or the story visuals wrong that the movie is set in a dark and serious tone to fight for justice: it was more entertaining and enjoyable as a spectacle from the ‘martial arts genre’, as Yoon wants to put it. He wanted the movie to give audience a race of heart as the heartless behaviour of society is challenged with the Robin Hood-esque affair.
Veteran actor Ha Jung Woo plays as the protagonist who has lost it all from the low class, Dolmuchi. He seeks vengeance towards Jo Yoon, a nobleman from the elite, played by Kang Dong Won (the actor was present tonight as the guest star in attendance). The movie, as festival’s advisor Tony Rayns opened, the movie brings the principles of the Left wing – the clash between class and power has never died. Given another chance to seek his revenge, Dolmuchi was saved by a group of bandits who operates their own self-sufficient village by a valley, and pursue their life’s passion to put justice for the poor. What becomes a problem is simply that Jo Yoon is just too good to be taken down.
What happens in the next two hours – yes, roughly 135 minutes – we see the relationship grow between Dolmuchi and his new family; Jo Yoon expanding his power and prowess through political dirty tricks that is not new; both characters meet to duel, however both are too strenuous and stubborn to die when the movie could have ended there. This lengthy piece is deliberately left this way to present the modern take of metal-clashing, slow-motion sword fights in a bamboo forest reminds the days where television showed the repeat of Chinese action movies. In another scene, a Hollywood-ized element is manifested in the take of a line of cowboys on horses going home in victory – but this time, it is the remaining band of Yoon’s bandits, Korean style released in 2014 and set in Joseon Dynasty.
If Yoon would like to take it as a Korean mainstream blockbuster this year, then he has nailed it, because its what “I have longed to give that feeling to the audience”. It is the moment where Jo Yoon artfully fights with swift, smooth movements against the brash band of bandits hearts race. However, the lack of build-up in the story other than revenge makes it nothing special with CGI that questions the nation’s ability to have produced seamless effects – which is not seen here.
If there’s anything to wish for more, it is the fantastic sword fight between the bandit’s captain and Jo Yoon – this I plead to have more screen time than any other, but sadly it ended briefly and continued on with the wish to bring Dolmuchi back to the screen. London’s audience found it extremely engrossing to have drawn a chorus of laughter upon Jo Yoon’s hair falling like of a woman’s at the peak of the scene. When an audience asked if the hair is something of personal preference, actor Kang handed the mic over to Yoon, to which he responds, “It’s not about personal preference, but because I take inspiration from those martial arts genre, which they have long hair in those period dramas and movies. The long hair gave a sense of transformation, and I wanted a scarier effect; the dramatic moment when it drops to sense the change of air and seriousness”. Allow this space to credit both main leads and the rest of the bandits to have fought in a fantastic way. Kang has admitted to have trained for 5 months for the role, and felt that “he is a swords master and could do any scenes”.
The movie made more sense as I previously met the film composer, Cho Young Wuk where he shared a few things as his latest movie project. The palpitating rush of strings that burst like a 60s American cowboy hero instead of a largely traditional-sounding Korean instruments, the movie is a mish-mash of cinema’s iconic scenes and familiarity of mass media products – cinema included. While last year’s opening cinema challenged the audience the fright to our seat and leaving us with real heartrace, this year’s Opening Gala changes the air to come out of the cinemas in an affable mood with the ‘flower boy’ in attendance to catch the attention of the new generation of Hallyu Wave fans in London.
Rating: 3 out of 5