Hae-il Park shoots his way through the box office in Korea and beyond.
Rating: 4 stars
The Buzz: Sold 7 million tickets at the Korean box office last year, making it one of the biggest box-office hits ever.
The Stars: Hae-il Park, Seung-yong Ryoo and Chae-won Moon
The Story: Set in 1636, the second Manchurian invasion of Korea rages chaos, as villages are attacked by overpowering Manchurian soldiers. The Manchurians kidnap childhood sweethearts, Ja-in (Chae Won Moon) and Seo-Goon (Mu-Yeol Kim) on their wedding day. In an effort to save his sister, Ja-in's brother Nam-Yi (Hae-il Park) sets out to defeat the enemy and save his sister and other Korean victims with only his bow.
inSing.com thinks: The bow seems to be the weapon of the year. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss used it to great effect in ‘The Hunger Games’, while Pixar’s ‘Brave’ also features an archer for its lead heroine. Now, this Korean movie provides even more bow action.
This Korean historical action film shows why Korean films are on the upswing. Though it starts off slowly, the film gradually becomes a duel of bows between Na-mi and a bunch of elite bowmen.
Avoiding the proliferation of special effects that has swallowed up Hong Kong martial art movies like ‘The Sorcerer and the White Snake’, ‘War of the Arrows’ relies more on action with a dash of melodrama thrown in that doesn’t overwhelm the film. True, there are a few dodgy CG moments, but they aren’t too horrid and not used gratuitously.
The film’s best moments belong to the second half of the film, as it focuses on the duel between Na-mi and the Manchurian bowmen, as Na-mi uses his deadly archery skills against the bunch of medieval guerrillas in various creative ways.
Acting wise, main lead Park Hae-il does a fine job as the useless son who finds himself in the hunt for his sister. Park, who has won a Korean acting award for his role, makes the almost two-dimensional character fully formed. He’s flawed, but looking for redemption. It’s not quite Clint Eastwood, but Park brings an edge to the role.
Some may consider it over-the-top, but there’s no apologies for this highly watchable, fast-moving action film. When the action kicks in, it’s quick as an arrow, and a guilty pleasure.