Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:24 pm 
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KIM HONG-SUN: THE AGE OF BLOOD/YEOOKMO - BANRANUI SIDAE (2017) - 2018 NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

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JUNG HAE-IN IN AGE OF BLOOD

Historical pleasures

This historical fight movie from Korea is big-time eye-candy built around new local heartthrob Jung Hae-in, usually a smiling and boyish type who looks great topless. It begins with a background review that's animated, and morphs seamlessly into stylized movie mode. Yes, this is about a historical event, though reinterpreted here. It concerns a rebellion. A lot of the fight action takes place at night; hence the sword and bow-and-arrow fights are depicted in extreme chiaroscuro that is frustrating if you want blow-by-blow detail but makes for artistic effects.

Jung Hae-in, who's thirty, has only been a name actor for four years, and thinks his fame won't last. (Maybe so, but he's enjoying himself for now.) He's known from TV series, a historical one, like this, called "The Three Musketeers," and a drama about three people who can foresee crimes, called "While You Were Sleeping." In civvies, Jung Hae-in has a slightly goofy look, like a surprised child. For Age of Blood he has been fitted with long, stylishly unruly tresses, a mustache, and chin whiskers. It makes all the difference. In this disguise, and various sharp period costumes, he sometimes looks dashing. He also looks goofy sometimes too.

In this movie, Yeongjo is the reigning ruler, 21st king of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He is reputed to have poisoned his brother to become king. Kim Ho (the Jung Hae-in) is an ace swordsman who has been waiting around for an appointment for some time. When it finally comes, he's astonished to learn he's been demoted to the level of prison guard. Little does he know that this will be the most important place to be in the kingdom, and that the night of his arrival will be a decisive time. The prison is a dramatic setting, sometimes seen from above, it is a long one-story complex in a rectangular shape with a big central enclosed space. Kim Ho encounters various guards (he doesn't like the uniform; they mock him for boasting that he'll rise to senior guard quickly), and several unsavory prisoners.

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A striking interlude shows an unbelievably handsome, hunky, and sexy prisoner, nude to the waist in white and hung up by his hands, awaiting execution. Denied a drink of water in a cruel and mocking manner by a guard, he manages to break free, grab a sword, and execute the guard.

The main action begins when a group of conspirators break into the prison to set free their leader, who has been imprisoned, and Kim Ho takes them on. Joe Bendel, who has reviewed this film on JB Spins, adds more about the cast: "Hong Soo-a is also shows off some nice chops as Lady Yoo Seo-yeong, Kim Ho’s unexpected ally," and "Kim Ji-hoon’s Lee [the rebel leader] is arguably too cold-blood, but Jo Jae-yun is terrific as Do, the intense but honorable adversary." Kim Ho is arguably defending an illegitimate regime, established through a crime, but he is supporting the office, not the man. Anyway, all this, though entertaining and beautiful to look at, is only skin deep and shouldn't be judged too harshly as historical drama, even if that's what it it ostensibly is. There are discernible characters and there is a historical plot line, but the movie most notably exists as a stylish and polished excuse for a series of dashing battles and other displays of daring-do, with other visual pleasures thrown in.

The Age of Blood/ 역모 - 반란의 시대 Yeokmo - banranui sidae ("Conspiracy - The Age of Rebellion"), 104 mins., opened in Korean cinemas Nov. 2017, and debuted on Japanese TV May 2018. It was screened for this review as part of the 2018 New York Asian Film Festival, where it shows at 12:30 July 4th.

A Korean movie blog in English, Drama Beans, provides a knowledgeable preview of this "gritty action sageuk [Korean historical period drama]."

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JUNG HAE-IN, IN AGE OF BLOOD AND IN CIVVIES

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