[The hubs returns to the blog just in time for Christmas with his second film review *applause*! We both wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays! The blog will be back next week after we recover from the merry-making :).–DDee]
Kundo: Age Of The Rampant came with a good amount of hype, having smashed Korean box-offices and enjoying positive early reviews. With my expectations duly elevated, I cautiously went into Kundo with raised hopes, having endured a number of high-profile K-movie duds.
I came out of this movie neither fully satiated nor disappointed. Par for the course with most blockbuster K-movie endeavours, Kundo benefits from early promises of ingenuity and quirk yet suffers from a lack of focus and economy, occasionally delving into the banal and prosaic.
The basic storyline transplants the Robin Hood myth to the mid-19th century Joseon era, where a butcher, Dolmuchi (Ha Jung-Woo) must throw in his lot in a band of do-gooder outlaws to battle a bastard nobleman (no, he literally is one) with daddy issues, Jo Yoon (Kang Dong-Won) – all for the fate of the peasantry.
Based on the trailer, you would expect copious amounts of cleaver-chopping action courtesy of our bald-headed Karl Maka look-a-like, Dolmuchi–except that the movie takes a full hour for him to transform from dull-witted butcher to bad-ass hero of the people. A good chunk of that hour is spent exploring the back-stories of the frankly not-too-interesting side-characters and villain, Jo Yoon.
When the movie finally kicks into full gear, it kind-of delivers, with some of the finest martial arts choreography Asian cinema has produced of late (and none of that fake-looking wire-fu stuff, either). And yet Kundo manages to sabotage itself with clunky info-dumping and set pieces that go on for far too long.
I was never able to fully sympathize with the plight of the main character nor get behind the successes of our bald cypher of a hero who undergoes a puzzling personality transformation with newfound martial arts skills heretofore unexhibited. The movie just chooses to wave such questions away with a voiceover and a rather vague (though pretty) training montage.
This is a shame as Kundo occasionally displays flashes of inspiration–from its nods to Spaghetti westerns and soundtracks to eloquent visuals and fight choreography as previously mentioned.
I would have enjoyed the movie a whole lot more if it just full-on embraced its pseudo-Western style and camp, but the filmmakers behind Kundo just lacked the discipline to commit to that idea. This resulted in a movie that feels laboured and fairly lazy in its lack of focus.
Kundo: Age of the Rampant
Starring: Ha Jung Woo, Kang Dong Won, Lee Kyoung Young, Ma Deong Sook, Lee Sung Min
Overall rating: 2.5/5
Recommended: If you fancy a average commercial action K-film.
Director: Yoon Jong Bin
Screenwriter: Jun Chul Hong, Yoon Jong Bin