3 ½ + Stars: Technically Astounding, this Wuxia Fantasy film
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 04/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The RESTLESS (aka. Jeong-Cheon) is a fantasy adventure film set in a world of souls that have passed away long before they are reincarnated. This latest WUXIA foray from South Korea combines the elements of love and romance, fantasy and terrific swordplay, martial arts action in an eternal battle between good and evil. Directed by Jo Dong-Oh, this fantasy epic gives its focus on elaborate costumes, expensive set designs with a tale of romance and loyalty. People who are familiar with Chinese Wuxia epics will no doubt embrace "The Restless", with the usual style of wire fu reminiscent of Chinese outings such as Tsui Hark`s "The Legend Of Zu" and the more recent Korean Wuxia such as "Shadowless Sword". (It would be unfair to compare this film to "Musa the warrior" which I will review later on)
Jung Woo-Sung(Musa the Warrior) is Gwak Yi, a former Chuyongdae(Royal Demon hunters) who after an encounter with demon-hybrids to protect a village, unexpectedly finds himself in Mid-Heaven, a pseudo-Buddhist holding where deceased souls gather to wait 49 days for their eventual reincarnation. There, Gwak Yi meets So-Hwa (Kim Tae-hee), a supposed deity who is assigned an important task. So-hwa must deliver the so-called "Holy Stone" to the "Pool of Reflection" in order to prevent evil-doers from upsetting the balance between Earth and Heaven. If she fails then no one will be reincarnated. Noble and fearless, Gwak Yi enlists in Son-Hwa's cause immediately but he has his own hidden motivation.
Son-hwa is a dead ringer for Gwak Yi's former love Yon-Hwa, whom he failed to protect from an untimely death. Actually, they are the same being, Son-hwa is a "Chuneen", resurrected deity with no recollection of their past life on Earth. This complicates matters for both Gwak Yi and Son-hwa even further when Gwak Yi's former comrades(led by Hur Jun-ho) as a "Chuyongdae" are the ones who threaten the stability of Mid-Heaven. Meaning that in order to help Son-hwa, he must once again send his former comrades(to whom he owes a debt of honor) in the earthly plane to suffer a second death.
The astounding CGI effects and set designs, awesome action, superb martial arts choreography are the elements that carry this Wuxia swordplay fantasy tale. The film is definitely technically sound and it is so obvious that its budget went to the film's special effects. The Martial arts choreography rivals other Chinese installments, and definitely displays its competency in regards to adrenaline-pumping action sequences. The film is definitely engaging when it comes to action sequences; Highlights include a very cool forest battle and the grand-daddy of all climactic battles where Gwak-Yi engages 10,000 demonic spirits alone. (Azumi would eat her pretty little heart out). The action is engaging and plentiful; that will make fans of superb CGI designs stand up and cheer. PS3 and Xbox fans will no doubt be entertained.
Aside from the CGI-enhanced action sequences, what stands out the most is the spectacular costumes and sets. Although, the colors and rendering may not put "The Promise" or "The Banquet" to shame, it is nonetheless very impressive. The acting is quite decent, Jung Woo-Sung shows his usual charismatic manly appeal that wooed female fans in "A Moment to Remember". Lovely Kim Tae-Hee performance is partly acceptable, I do have mixed feelings about her performance after this 2nd viewing; she seemed to have limited expressions in emotion. The villains seems to be a little over-expressive in their demeanor, but thankfully, Heo Jun-Ho bears much of the weight since he does have a unique villainous aura.
Visually stunning and quite beautiful, the film is not without its faults. The problem with the screenplay is that when there are no fights, the proceedings are slow-paced that it almost stops to a crawl. Strong characters are definitely needed to form an attachment to its viewers. People may say that the characters are a bit underdeveloped and while I do partly agree, (there was no explanation at all as to how the villains gained their powers); I do believe that the reason why some people may feel this way is because a lot of it happens in the form of flashbacks and at times, it does prove blurry, which may result with some difficulty in making a connection to its audience. Folks unfamiliar with Buddhist lore may find themselves a little lost, as to what some places mean and as to why are reincarnations relevant to the lost souls.
The Restless is indeed a masterpiece in Korean film-making in terms of technical aspects. This fantasy-adventure will definitely charm the audience with its gorgeous execution in set designs. It is not a piece of contemporary Wuxia but more of an overindulgent fantasy epic that has gained mass international appeal. The film is also geared for action/CGI fan boys. The film may have some difficulty connecting to some viewers and some may consider the film very superficial. There's good and evil, love and hate; but it all seems to have been overshadowed by its stunning visuals that it seemed to lack credibility. It may be a little difficult to wow an audience if all you have going is the action and grand sets.
"The Restless" may not offer much in originality which would make it stand out, it makes the film a little forgettable. On the action-entertainment side of the coin, the film doesn't disappoint. It may be more of an execution of "style over substance"...But what a style it is to behold!
Recommended! [3 ½ + Stars]
Note: I own the uncut region-3 release from CJ Entertainment (Korea) with terrific video and DTS sound. The U.S. release is expected to carry an English dubbed track.
See it without high expectations and you will like this movi
Avidfan | Florida | 04/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The plot of the film is not really a strong one (nor original for that matter) but a good one never the less. There will be times where you are left scratching your head hoping for an explanation for certain things but they are not harmful or have a great impact to the plot so it is forgivable. But what truly saved the film more for me and for some people who agree with me is the graphics and the landscape of Midheaven. And the action sequences even though there are not many, they don't disappoint. The biggest scene stealer would have to be the protagonist vs. 5,000 to 10,000 demon soldiers. The acting is a bit stiff and the female star of the film (Kim Tae-Hee) really needs to learn how to have more than just two facial expresions (wich are only just a surprised expresion or a sad expresion). She has shown promise but she has long way to go. This film is more for the WUXIA fan freaks including myself and in no way should it be compared to Crouching tiger (overhyped film) or Hero. It should be compared with films like The Duel, The Storm Riders, and mainly Bichumoo. But of course because of a film called The Promise most people will compare them at first glance. So in closing, the story could have been executed better but the graphics deffinetly makes up for it. And the movie is not really a martial arts film so don't compare the film with them. See it only if you are into the WUXIA Asian fantasy genre."
Good action movie
M. MOUA | 09/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is about a demon hunter who is trap in the spirit world where those who dies goes to stay until they are reincarnated. Gwak Yi is the hero who happened to be in a village during a demon invasion. With his martial arts and special sword, he easily kills off his these demons. The ungrateful villagers thank him by drugging him and trying to capture Gwak Yi for a reward. Somehow Gwak Yi is wanted by the government. Gawk Yi escapes but still falls prey to the drug that was given to him. He finds himself in the spirit world. He can't figure why he is there because he is not dead either. He's alive, yet stuck in the spirit world known as Mid Heaven.
Upon his arrival, Mid Heaven is attack by demons led by his old Demon Slaying friends when they once lived on earth. One of the last remaining defender of Mid Heaven happens to be his former wife, So Hwa, reincarnated and doesn't remember her past life. Gwak Yi saves So Hwa's life and they continue to be on the run from his old allies.
Gwak Yi was later captured and brought to his old master and he explains his reason why he is doing what he is doing and warns him not to interfere. For his former friends to achieve their goals, they needed the Holy Stone that So Hwa have in her possession. Gwak Yi decides he just can't stand there and watch So Hwa goes against his former allies because of his love for her. Once they realize that Gwak Yi won't understand their cause, they go after them trying to achieve their goals.
Action, color, artwork, costumes, love story....and did I mention the action? A lot of fight scenes that any martial arts fanatic can enjoy. It seems that the direction of Kung Fu movies are moving towards the beautiful artwork like Jet Li's Hero or House of Flying Daggers. Extremely colorful and amazing to look at. I could only imagine what they would look like in Blue Ray Disc. The story is focused between Gwak Yi and So Hwa. Relationship. The present and the past. How they once loved each other and how they rediscover their love.
The plot is a little weak. There were missing or un-explained things that could of thicken the story line a little more. The writers did not build enough of a story line between Gwak Yi and his friends. Even though they did flash backs of them and their past to explain why they were now in Mid Heaven.
Despite being a love story, somehow it lacks emotion or attachment to all the characters. I didn't feel any lost or sadness as these characters faced hardships and sufferings. I guess not enough character build up that as a viewer, I didn't form any attachment to them. They didn't move me. For example, when I first watched Mel Gibson's "Brave Heart", I was extremely moved by William Wallace and rooted for him until his death. I felt bad and heart broken that the main hero have lost at the end. The death of his family, his wife and eventually his own life was extremely moving.
Overall, this movie still catches my attention. The beautiful artwork, costumes, and action scenes were enough to gain my interest through out the movie. Not the greatest movie and plot but I find it good enough for me to rate it 4 out of 5 stars....well not quite 4...more like 3.85 out of 5 stars.
No Rest for the Living
AMP | Somewhere on Earth | 08/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Good Things
*Loads of slick, stylish special effects. Some of them are gorgeous.
*Quite a few good fight scenes and a couple of battles. I loved the ending battle!
*Interesting usages of mythology and theology.
*Production design is splendid.
*Storyline is not bad.
*Characters are not bad. Good acting.
*Music is good.
The Bad Things
*A little slow towards the middle. The story seems to have lost momentum there.
The Questionable Things
*Lots of melodrama, and it can also be seen as sappy. I didn't mind it so much though.
*For a couple of areas, I was reminded of a few other films (the main character initially reminded me of Jubei from the "Ninja Scroll", Midheaven reminded me of the "Bleach" series, and the ending resembled "Lord of the Rings" a little bit).
The storyline is simple, but leaves a lot of room for strong emotions and lots of style. The drama can be a little too overwhelming, but there are enough slick action scenes and special effects to entertain. Altogether, it's a visually immersive fantasy epic that's worthwhile seeing.
The DVD has good quality video and audio. It has only a Korean language track with English subtitles. It includes one making-of documentary and a couple of other featurettes."