KOREAN MOVIE REVIEW:
I watched this crazy movie a couple of weeks ago just to pass the time, and it is really not much more than a time passer to be honest. There is nothing profound here and most of it is a little dumb, but in saying that there are definitely still a few moments of true and rare awesomeness that make it a pretty fun watch if you have the time and the stamina.
But be warned, if you don’t like redonkulously cheesy teenager/family fare that moves sloooowly then you might want to give this one a miss.
This movie seems to come in ‘parts’ which are (sort of) tied together to make a whole movie, mostly just focusing on the random and non-eventful day to day life of a teenage girl, the luminous Shin Mina, playing the cute and clueless role of our resident boy-obsessed martial arts student. There is such a weird mish-mash of ideas and levels of seriousness in this film, starting out light as fluff and about as deep as a puddle, but very very occasionally actually giving us weird moments of character depth and darkness underneath the teen girl crushing storyline. It even finishes with a scene so crazily epic that I started wondering if I was still watching the same movie as it was, dare I say it, actually quite moving and beautiful.
So here goes, it may be a bit hard to write a coherent review with this movie as the source material as it was crazy all over the shop, meaning my review probably will be as well.
But I’ll give it a try!
The start: (Wherein Shin Mina runs aimlessly around her school attempting to catch the notice of the popular sports jock whilst being generally carefree and whacky)
Shin Mina’s So-hwi is a girl who hails from a prestigious (and totally secret) martial arts house in modern day Korea, but she absolutely couldn’t care less, much preferring to spend her days not practicing her martial arts and instead chasing boys. She is super strong, can’t get drunk and basically cannot be hurt, and she uses her strange powers to…..star in a school play where she gets repeatedly bopped over the head by her friends (?) and also trying to impress the ice hockey team by drinking soju out of a sweaty shoe (?). She even joins the ice hockey team, first as a blade sharpener and then, when her awesome sword skills turn out to make her handy with a hockey stick, as the goal keeper on the team.
This all sounds pretty weird but the reasoning behind her actions is a serious crush on the popular ice hockey jock, Joon-mo, who isn’t interested in her in the slightest. Treating So-hwi more like an annoying little fly who keeps buzzing around his head, Joon-mo is busy chasing after an Ajumma (?!) policewoman who repeatedly tells him to get lost. In one of those weird darker character moments I spoke of above, we find out through flashbacks that the policewoman has saved Joon-mo’s life and he clearly has serious mummy issues which he is projecting onto his older lady love. Forget Noona romance, this here is Ajumma romance!
Add in some boring martial arts Ahjussis who I fast forwarded through and that basically sums up the whole plot for the first half of the movie. It is light and silly and pretty dumb, being squarely aimed at a very young audience who would be enthralled by the thrilling concept of crushing over an older hottie who rides the streets brooding on his dope motorbike.
For the rest of us though, it is kind of boring.
The only reason I kept watching past the first 20 minutes was because for some reason the subtitles were showing up in hangul as well as English and it was fun for me to use them to practice my bad beginner level Korean.
The Middle: (Wherein a random charming love interest turns up to kick the comedy and cuteness up a notch)
Enter Il-yeong, a second love interest who knows So-hwi from childhood and is everything the Korean romantic comedy Male Lead should be: cute, sweet, a bit jealous and petty, a little bit shouty and indignant and already comfortable enough with our female lead that we are treated to a huge dose of cute. This new character introduction thankfully upped my interest in this movie, making me wonder where the hell this dude was the entire first half?
Il-yeong turns up to try and talk So-hwi into returning to the martial arts lifestyle and agree to take over her father’s inheritance. But basically the only difference from the first half of the movie is that now we have sweet Il-yeong tagging along on all of So-hwi’s mundane adventures around campus and the ice hockey rink, which in actual fact makes everything considerably better.
Other then the end scene which I will touch on later, my absolute favourite scene in this movie was during one of those ridiculously cute moments between Il-yeong and So-hwi that made this movie worth it. I am a little ashamed to say that this scene had me in absolute stitches but oh the cuteness!
When Joon-mo overhears on the police monitor (because he is creepily stalking police ajumma at her place of work!) that his lady love is facing down two fighting gangs alone at night he rushes out to the scene on his dope motorbike to rescue her, only to end up getting totally pummeled because he is a silly little boy who is waaay out of his depth.
Enter So-hwi and Il-yeong who decide that before they can help they will need to disguise themselves to ensure that Joon-mo doesn’t recognise So-hwi and thus realise that she is a totally awesome arse-kicking machine. The sequence that follows next is so utterly silly but just so endearing as the couple swap their hats and clothes and draw mustaches onto each other’s faces to try and hide their identities. It’s not enough however and they must also disguise their faces meaning the viewer gets to witness the most ridiculous pulling of silly faces that was ever invented. It was so redonkulously cute that I was squealing on the couch, so overwhelmed by the silliness that I forgot to breathe. They keep up these stupid faces as they fight, beating all the baddies up together easily and generally just being enormously hilarious.
Favourite scene over.
Next up things start getting darker and the movie departs from all campus related plotlines or hockey guy story stuff…..and never comes back to it.
In fact it just leaves the whole first half of the movie storyline hanging with no real ending whatsoever.
But did I care? Nope.
We learn the back story behind So-hwi’s mother’s death, as well as the fact that So-hwi has a whole secret history shared with Il-yeong (including his saving her life romantically) that she doesn’t even remember (cos she got knocked on the noggin). Also, in the process of saving her, it turns out that Il-yeong was cursed by some evil dude’s sword. Now he has to be an awesome evil fighter until he hears the same sound from his evil sword that first bound him into the spell.
But obviously he can’t tell anyone because that’s against the rules.
Weird plotting choice considering Il-yeong wasn’t even in the first half of the movie and is now suddenly acting as the catalyst for the entire plot…… but oh well, it is still better then the shuffling around campus stuff from earlier, even if it does make no sense.
The end: (Wherein everything is beautiful and lovely and gorgeous and worth it)
The end of this movie has a climactic scene that is so inappropriately epic that it makes you feel like you have suddenly changed over to an entirely different film. This scene is tense and sweepingly romantic with beautiful cinematography and music. So-hwi doesn’t learn Il-yeong’s secret until she arrives at the place they will duel, a gorgeous field with dappled sunlight and flowers creeping across the grasses.
Even though she doesn’t want to, she is forced into fighting Il-yeong who attacks her mercilessly, the anguish and horror he feels at his own uncontrollable actions is palpable. And then suddenly they are speaking in rustling whispers to each other, each hearing the other inside their heads with no words spoken aloud. It is truly beautiful to watch them as they fight, an emotional and graceful aerial battle taking place as they leap above the yellow grasses. Il-yeong screams in horror and grief as he attacks So-hwi over and over again, pleading to her in his whispers to kill him. Their connection is so evident as they fight and their love and heartbreak so sad.
They leap to the top of a cliff, where Il-yeong’s cursed sword has been imbedded into the rock below them during the fight. So-hwi cannot kill him so Il-yeong gains the upper hand, climbing on top of her with his hands around her throat. And it is finally her tears falling on the sword below that draws the spell breaking sound from the metal, destroying the curse. Il-yeong collapses onto her and So-hwi holds him as he cries.
I can barely describe how lovely and emotional this one scene was for me, a strange but stirring culmination to this weird movie that made me hugely glad that I had bothered to watch it through. This one scene, along with the few scattered laughs and moments of sweetness I found throughout the movie, saved it from absolute terribleness into the kind of film I probably remember with more fondness than it actually deserves, all due to a clever ending sequence that grabbed me by the heart.
Thoughts: Kind of terrible but also kind of fun if you can make it through the first half. But if you can bare to wade through (or fast forward through) all the boringness there are some nice little gems to be had in Il-yeong and So-hwi’s cute interactions and petty bickering, as well as a proper epic ending that makes everything worth it in the end.