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An extraordinary case of half awesome, and half terrible
Version: Korean audio, English subtitles
What do you get when you combine Korean history with a strange mix of Monty Python and tear jerking drama? 'Hwangsanbul' sounded like a Korean version of Monty Python war / comedy, something like 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. I got gypped. Again. Well, at least it wasn't as bad as '2009: Lost Memories'.
'Hwangsanbul' is set in fifth century Korea, where the three Korean kingdoms of Baekche, Koguryo and Shilla bicker amongst themselves, but must pay tribute to the Tang empire in China. After a dispute about blocking trade routes, Shilla and Tang soldiers attack Baekche. The hero of Baekche is Kye-baek (Joong-Hoon Park), a rather loony fellow who must hold out against the 50,000 strong Shilla army with only 5,000 troops of his own.
'Hwangsanbul' is probably a film best suited for those well versed in Korean history. I wouldn't know, as I am not well versed in Korean history, and nor are the friends with whom I watched this. It took us a while to figure out what exactly was going on, as it is a little strange, at least to anyone without much the historical / cultural knowledge. The first half (maybe even the first two-thirds) of the film is very funny though, and a few scenes seem inspired by 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. If the movie had continued like that, it would have been solid gold, but there is a point where the movie turns into more of a serious drama. The film loses pace and focus, and the audience loses interest: the second half is rather boring.
'Hwangsanbul' is an average comedy at best, which is a shame because it starts off so well but fizzles out long before the end. There are some great scenes, and then there are scenes that almost dare you to turn it off before the end - 5/10
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