It was one of the most famous martial art movies in Bulgaria in the late 1980's. And it definitely deserves its place! When I was about to see the movie for the very first time, I didn't know exactly what to expect - I hadn't had seen other North Korean movies by that time, it was time, when the Chinese cinema dominated overwhelmingly with "The Shao Lin Monastery", "The Martial Arts of Shao Lin" and many more. But "Hong Kil Dong", which follows the life of the famous \and legendary\ Korean hero, proved to be something different... The film opens with a dynamic fight between Hong Kil Dong and Japanese ninjas during which the credits are shown. One of the first things to be noted is the monumental music score - I must admit that to me it is the best score for a martial arts movie, together with John Barry's OST of Bruce Lee's "Game of Death"! The sequence ends almost abruptly, then we move forward to the birth of Hong Kil dong - son of the Royal Councillor Hon and his young concubine. The Councillor's wife, not surprisingly, dislikes Hong Kil Dong's mother and hires assassins to kill her and her little boy while on a trip in the province. But an old man, who happens to be master of the Tao arts, saves them from the assassins and then takes little Hong as his apprentice... Hong becomes an invincible fighter, fights corrupt noblemen and thugs, helps the poor and, at the end, fights Japanese ninja brigands, who had become the scourge of his homeland. Of course, it is typical story for a movie like that. The thing that makes "Hong Kil Dong" different from the other movies of that period is the psychological depth in which the main characters are revealed. There are numerous fighting sequences, but there are also many lyrical digressions, full with romance and emotion. I must also stress on the acting abilities of Ri Yong Ho and the other actors - they do their job just fine. There are many interesting details depicting life in Korea in the 17-th century, in which the movie action takes place. "Hong Kil Dong" attracted hundreds of thousands people to the cinemas across Bulgaria, it was almost impossible to get tickets for it, unless you book them 2 or 3 days earlier! I've never seen such thing in my life and I'm pretty sure I never will, but nonetheless the distant childhood memories remain. If you ever find this movie just see it! I'm sure at least you won't be disappointed.
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