Posts tagged "Lee Seo-jin"

Shadowless Sword

Shadowless Sword

aka 무영검 aka Muyeong geom

Written by Kim Tae-kwan and Sin Joon-hee
Directed by Kim Young-Jun

A stylized action flick overly heavy on outside influences, Shadowless Sword delivers some good wirework action, but not enough heart or story to put it beyond popcorn fare. The fact that Shadowless Sword is a Korean flick does transform some of the usual wuxia tropes into new forms, giving Shadowless Sword a uniqueness, but that’s not enough to satisfy.

A period piece filmed in China, Shadowless Swords gets it story from the ancient Korean kingdom of Balhae and is very very loosely based on reality. Balhae was conquered by the Kitans in 926, and the royal family was killed and the kingdom turned into a puppet state that was eventually absorbed. But the last crown prince Dae Gwang-hyeon escaped with around 300 followers, arriving in Goryeo (the Kingdom from which modern Korea sprang) and causing occasional trouble for the Kitan. From reading up, the actual Dae Guang-hyeon history sounds much more interesting than the story used here. (If you are confused by the Dae Guang-hyeon/Dae Jeong-Hyun being the same person that, welcome to the wonderful world of different translation schemes colliding!)

Shadowless Sword‘s action sequences are heavily invested with wirework, and at times almost too choreographed. You start to notice a pattern and then predict when there will be a cut as the actor flips to suddenly fly in the air. But the choreography not bad, in particular the duel between Yeon So-Ha and Mae Young-Ok in the marketplace is very nice.

There is a heavy emphasis on qigong energy type moves, attacks cause the walls and pillars to explode in ridiculous fashion when people are thrown into them. In physical attack, bodies can explode violently, sometimes much later than the physical attack itself.

This expands with a sort of sword energy mythology – Shadowless Sword tries to include including philosophy of sword debates, can swords become noble or evil, or is it up to the user to decide what the sword is. Can a sword become evil? Where does the morality of killing come from? Another major point is two swords that are brothers, the swords being connected and also the people using the swords are connected

One neat thing is the energy attacks also work underwater, this is the only film I can recall seeing where energy is blasted back and forth underwater causing the energy pushing the water to be used as a weapon (The Last Airbender doesn’t count!) There is also lots and lots of shuriken. At one point bad guys throw like 100s of shuriken into the water likes they are machine guns, which is sort of bad. It crosses into ridiculous territory and takes you out of the film.

Shadowless Sword does borrow a lot of visuals from other films, Crouching Tiger gives us flying rooftop chases, a Korean gang has everyone dressed up like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean (if this is accurate historical costuming, then we’re though a rabbit hole now, people!), the energy stuff sounds like it’s from a billion manga comics, fields of flags see straight from Kurosawa, and the end scene is very recognizable as well. If Shadowless Sword can’t be bothered to be less obvious in what it steals, then I can’t be bothered to care too much.

Yeon So-Ha (Yoon So-yi) – The best fighter of the surviving Balhae forces. Yeon So-Ha joined the army as a young girl after her whole family was killed. Carries a special shadowless sword (Muyeong geom) of which only two were made.
Prince Dae Jeong-Hyun (Lee Seo-jin) – Exiled prince and last surviving member of the Balhae royal family. He’s reluctantly taken from his black market dealings under the name Sosam and brought back to lead his people by Yeon So-Ha.
Gun Hwa-Pyung (Shin Hyun-jun) – Gun Hwa-Pyung’s father was a traitor to the prior King of Balhae and was executed along with his entire family, but Gun Hwa-Pyung survived the execution and joined up with the Khitan, leading the feared Killer Blade Army. It is his goal to eliminate the entire royal family for revenge
Mae Young-Ok (Lee Ki-Yong) – Female member of the Killer Blade Army and great admirer of Gun Hwa-Pyung, but his quest for revenge keeps him from being anything more than her commanding officer.

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2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , ,