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“Let’s Give Them All the Action We’ve Got”

Posted November. 17, 2005 07:58,   


While the action concepts “Bichunmoo” director Kim Young-joon utilizes in his first movie in five years, “Shadowless Sword,” are not anything new, they’re certainly surprising. Kim takes the elements of the free imagination of Hong Kong epics along with the crude spectacle of Hollywood war movies to present a hybrid where the sword is used like a gun, and the sword action used in the movie involves not just piercing, hacking or ripping, but more closely resembles the blowing up of one’s opponent.

There are many holes in the storyline of “Shadowless Sword.” The film fails to persuade us about prince Dae Jung-hyun who endlessly doubts his own ability, nor Gun Hwa-pyeong and his heart-wrenching situation involving the necessity of removing the prince. However, the overwhelming action embodying the style of Hong Kong martial arts director Ma Yuk-sing crushes any doubts one has regarding the story.

Rather than considering the audience, Kim takes the position of not giving the audience a moment to think, and the tightly arranged rhythm of the action almost forcefully becomes the main character of the movie. The scene where dozens of swordsmen shoot out like bullets from a machine gun after Dae Jung-hyun and Yun So-ha go to hide in the water, hurling spears at the pair, which leads to a complicated underwater chase scene, impresses a particularly strong aesthetic after-image on the viewer’s mind.

Theatrical makeup resembling that of amusement park dancers, overflowing tragic beauty, exaggerated characters, strange scenery reminiscent of a global village with no nationality – all of these elements combine in a movie set that is unrealistic, but also feels like a computer game, creating a complete “extra space.”

Choosing to suffocate reality rather than disguise itself in it, this movie accumulates an “aesthetic of strength.” In addition to making the audience accustomed not only to the running over the tiles under the moonlight and flying over the saddles in the bamboo forest, the reason for the destructive power of the “Shadowless Sword” is its attempt from the beginning to end to package the heavy physical mobilization as outrageous contemplative visual action.

This movie also has the intent of entering the world market as a Korean film. The major American distribution company New Line Cinema invested an estimated 30 percent of the total production cost (8 billion won) and is expected to distribute the film through its American network market as well as throughout the rest of the world.

Although the movie is rated as appropriate for those “aged 12 and up,” and thus, viewers as young as those in the upper elementary grades can watch it, the film features violent scenes where mouths are slashed and bodies are clubbed, so particular discretion of parents is advised. This film opens in theatres on November 17.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com