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Being of Korean descent and a huge film buff (especially Harry Potter), but having no knowledge of Korean films (which my parents find is a disgrace), my father thought it would be good for me to watch "Arahan". It's set in a modern-time period, but takes martial arts and special effects to a whole new level with characters running down the side of buildings, jumping great distances and even having this power called "jangpung", which is blasting objects out of the way. Normally, I would have called this cheesy, but the director and writers actually made it funny. Now, the main character isn't a typical superhero. He's a deadbeat cop with no self-esteem whatsoever. You follow him as he's recruited by the Seven Masters and trained into shape. He falls in love with one of the Seven Masters, Eui-Jun. An evil spirit takes human form and looks for this legendary sword. It's your typical Asian action movie, but it's also extremely funny and fast-paced. I recommend this movie to fans of Asian action and/or comedy.
This is the story of the Seven Masters who recruit a bumbling police
officer into their group in order when its discovered that he possesses
a high level of Chi. The timing is very fortuitous since an ancient
enemy has awoken and is once more spreading evil in the world.
I first read about this movie when several on-line reviews said that this was destined to be the next big thing in movies. Later reviews were positive, but were less glowing noting that the film has several parts that don't fully mix together. I'm in the camp with the later reviews since I find the mixture of styles works against the parts.
I should begin with the action. If you want to see great action this is the movie for you. Hand to hand and weapons such as swords are used through out the film to great effect. Sure its done with wires and computers, but it doesn't matter since its so much fun to look at. Very often you watch the madness on screen and go "OH Cool" even though you know how its done. I loved when our hero throws a cup at the villain who catches it on the flat end of his sword, and then sends it spinning back with even more force. Amazing.(You really should try this film for the action if nothing else.) The humor in this film is both knowing and very funny. The opening round-table of the masters discussing the difficulty of training is priceless, especially if you've seen any martial arts movies. There is a nice friendly edge to it, that is mostly right on target. The problem is that our hero is often much to bumbling to be believed, especially after he's been in the training program for a while. The too slapsticky attitude is what really hurts the movie since there is no natural progression, just silliness for silliness sake (The ending for example).
The cast and the characters are great. These are people you can really root for. The villain is also suitably evil.
If you were to take all of the movies parts and look at them separately you'd be amazed at how good they all are. The problem is that when you put the bits together the film doesn't quite work together. As I said the slapstick doesn't hold up all the way through. The film is overly jokey at times, even in serious moments. Its hard to keep a light edge when characters are spewing blood and being run through with swords. It takes a bit of the love for the film away and leaves you with admire and simply like. The film also suffers from a pacing problem with slow period in the middle with the training bookended by a funny beginning and an action packed end.
Still I think you should give the movie a shot especially if you like action movies, especially when they have a humorous side to them. In all probability you're going to be like me and like this movie, but you won't love it.
There's an awful lot to like in "Arahan," but, then again, there's
always something to like in any film that features a bumbling misfit
saving the world.
Sang-hwan is a young police officer, and he's not a very good one. Bespectacled and nervous, he's not exactly welcomed with open arms at work. He bumbles his way into one mess and out of another, all despite his good intentions, and he ends up causing himself (and others) more harm than good. When several old masters guarding the key to enlightenment identify a strong ch'i in him that if properly nourished and trained could save mankind from a newly awakened evil, Sang-hwan decides to believe in himself and accept his new role as a guardian of society but not without bumbling headfirst into the responsibility.
"Arahan" opens with a pace and tone that feels far more dark than the script ever delivers, and moments of whimsy aren't as funny as was quite possibly intended. In fact, Sang-hwan's beating at the hands of a street gang is downright violent, completely void of any humor. Thankfully, the uneven pacing of the first half gives way to some welcome surprises in the second, complete with a spectacular showdown to save mankind with frenetic swordfights, great humor, and some spectacular wire-fu.
If anything, "Arahan" takes itself a bit too seriously again in the closing moments of the fisticuffs when too many fight sequences are photographed in brain-friendly slow motion (gee, doesn't this all look pretty and significant?). But that's a small complaint for a film that delivers some impressive action sequences, some inspired special effects, and more than a dozen good belly laughs.
I had a chance to view this film during the NIFFF 2004 (Neuchatel International Fantasy Film Festival) in Switzerland. Far Eastern Films are very popular this days (at least in Europe) and offer a different way of telling stories than the big US-productions. The naive downtown policeman Sang Hwan helps the good and punishes the bad. He is discovered b a martial art master and trained to unleash the powers within him, in order to fight the ultimate evil Heung Un and save the world. This South-Korean film is combining humor, action and special effects a little bit in the tradition of Jackie Chan-films. "Arahan" is based on a Korean cartoon. 3 out of 5 *
I've seen ARAHAN at the FantasyFilmFest. It based on a Korean manga. Sang-hwan isn't a hero at first sight. He is a police officer, who is taking his job too serious. After he was beaten up, he met the Seven Masters. They see that this dumb has huge chi-power. And its time to get in shape, because evil is coming back to earth. So he and Eui-Jin (a real babe) train to fight... ARAHAN could be yours, if you liked TOKYO RIDERS or DUEL. Don't be like Sang-hwan and take it too serious. Its loud, fast and funny. This colourful urban martial arts action feast won't allow you much time for breathing. Fasten your seat belt. This is a ride you won't soon forget.
As Eastern cinema grows more and more popular in the West, largely
thanks to its being aped by such filmmakers as the Wachowskis and
Quentin Tarantino, an increasing number of cinematic gems from across
Eastern Asia are now arriving in the West. While films like Hero and
House of Flying Daggers gain widespread theatrical releases, the more
common place to find some of these films is on DVD and that's precisely
where I found Arahan.
Having never heard of it before I was struck by the synopsis on the back of the box that likened it to Stephen Chow's (he of Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer fame) manic output I took a chance on it and was mildly surprised by what I saw.
Directed with confidence and occasional flare by Ryu Seung-Wan, Arahan tells the story of Sang (played Ryu Seung-Bum who you may recognise from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), a somewhat goofy and ineffective cop who no one can seem to take seriously. After a disastrous attempt to ticket the local congressman's chauffeur for running a red light, Sang spies a purse-snatcher and promptly gives chase. Unknown to him the purse-snatcher is also being pursued by Eui-Jin (played by Yun Soy), a Tao master in training. When Sang is struck by her errant palm blast he finds himself in the care of the Seven Masters (oddly enough there are only five of them). Harbouring a crush on Eui-Jin and a strong desire to kick some ass, Sang begins training under the Masters in the hopes of Maruchi, or enlightened male master.
One thing Arahan is not is slow. It moves at a brisk clip while at the same time managing to feel unhurried in reaching it's destination. It also boasts some fun characters. Seung-Bum is delightful to watch as Sang. The unusual combination of barrel bottom self esteem, stubborn pride and impatience is interesting to watch and Seung-Bum manages to carry it off wonderfully without ever letting the character descend into a mess of neuroses which could have so easily happened. Yun Soy makes a suitable foil and displays a lot of fire in her performance but her delivery sometimes falls a little flat. Admittedly she has less to work with as the slightly clichéd girl with great power and responsibility who just wants to lead a normal life has been a fairly common theme in recent years but all in all she acquits herself well. Jeong Doo-Hong is also well cast as the movies icy villain Heuk-Un, a former Tao Master with a neat line in martial arts moves and a PhD in not knowing when to call it quits.
In terms of action (for Arahan is a Kung Fu movie so not to mention it would defeat a lot of the object in a review of the film) Arahan manages to pull out some neat scenes, using the full gamut of tricks currently employed in the genre including extensive wire work in some of the later battles, occasional use of CG and a nice mixture of sword and fist fights to lend the scenes some variety. It never truly raises the bar and on occasion the fights can be heavily edited, perhaps to cover some of the performers lack of skill. By and large though it gets the blood pumping and will make you wince at just the right moments, all the ingredients of some decent Kung Fu.
Unfortunately Arahan does have one fairly large flaw. While billed as a comedy, Arahan can be surprisingly uneven in its tone. Much of the films humour tends to be slapstick although there are some knowing asides to Kung Fu genre in general particularly at the very beginning. The result of this somewhat broad humour combined with the manic performances will bring smiles to all but the most jaded. The downside to this however is when the film wants to get serious it pulls some nasty sucker punches that deaden the otherwise light and bouncy mood so suddenly you'll wonder if you're still watching the same film. Sang's ego destroying beating at the hands of a gang of thugs and any scene where Heuk-Un turns up are good examples of this and it's only toward the movies end that the two distinct tones of the movie begin to mesh any where close to successfully. It's a bit of a shame really. While the humour is welcome and largely on the nose (if a little broad at times), had it been reigned in slightly, perhaps been made a little more subtle, the films jarring changes of mood would have been less noticeable and the film itself doubtless would have been stronger for it.
In the end Arahan overcomes its flaws to provide a largely entertaining and irreverent slice of Kung Fu with a sideline in unexpected brutality. It may not be able to go head to head with best of Chow's output, but that it can be mentioned in the same sentence is more than praise enough.
I ain't no fan of chop-socky Asian martial arts movies. You could run
off a list of any of the 1000 films Jet Li made before going to America
and I'd say, 'Um...Kiss of the Dragon?' So, that's how bad my knowledge
and devotion is. It was surprising therefore to discover that Arahan is
actually a very funny and very exciting movie that zips along loud,
fast and funny.
Sang-Hwan is a lowly beat cop. He's clumsy, accident prone and bumbles more than the average bee. He doesn't believe he has any special powers, but when he makes friends with a group of five old masters, they recognise his potential and recruits him to help preserve the balance of the world from evil...or something. Which is great timing, because an ancient bad guy has come out of a long, long hibernation to seek the key to the ultimate nirvana and spread order over the whole world...or something.
Yes, it's gobbledygook. In fact, it's alarmingly similar to Bulletproof Monk, only not total crap. There are loads of laughs to be had. Arahan has a great sense of comic timing and the ability to jump from silly gags to serious action in just a few seconds.
When it comes to plain old hands-and-feet fighting, Hollywood movies seem to be lacking of late. It's all CGI and spandex. Eye candy it may be, but it's good to see something filled with practical fighting effects, despite the final showdown going on a bit.
The one bad thing that costs it half a star is the nasty Eighties synthesised score. Doesn't Korea have anything better than those shoddy Yamaha keyboards that I used in music class in high school? Hell, I could do better myself.
You can criticise the film for being mindless - hey, just because it's subtitled doesn't mean it's artsy fartsy - but for two hours of fun, Arahan will do nicely.
This is really the second Korean movie I saw after 'Shadow less swords'
n I am amazed at the maturity of Korean Cinema.. Arahan really was a
fantastic movie.. The acting of the lead actors was really good...
really up to the standards. Seung-beom Ryu as a gawky policemen n ever
so wonderful So-Yi Yoon. The treatment of the storyline, the direction
n effects.. all fell in line.
To say I am curious about Korean movies now would be an understatement... I am looking for more ...
In fact I would welcome suggestions from some one who can guide me..
Really a superb movie to watch.. just great.
When a thief driving a motorcycle steals a purse of a pedestrian, the
clumsy, naive and honest rookie policeman Sang-hwan (Seung-beom Ryu)
runs after him, but the skilled specialist in martial arts Wi-jin
(So-yi Yoon) captures the criminal and Sang-hwan is severely injured.
She brings Sang-hwan to her home, where the six Masters of Tao heal him
and believe that he has a powerful Qi, the spiritual energy of the
universe, and could be a powerful warrior. Sang-hwan begins his
training to ascend to a Maruchi, while the evil and ambitious Heuk-woon
(Doo-hong Jung) is accidentally released from his imprisonment. The
powerful Heuk-woon attacks the masters, searching a key that they
protect, which would permit him to become an Arahan and dominate the
world. When the masters are defeated, Sang-hwan and Wi-jin are the only
hope to mankind.
"Arahan" has great special effects, a nice cast and could be a good action movie. Unfortunately the comedy never works, with the clumsy anti-hero Sang-hwan being a confused not-funny character. Maybe this type of humor works in other cultures, but I did not like it. The developments of the rich characters is weak, and maybe in Asian cultures the concepts of Qi and Tao are clear, but at least for me, I was forced to research about these concepts of the Chinese culture to understand their meanings. But for fans like me of South-Korean movies, "Arahan" is essential. My vote is six.
Title Brazil): "Arahan"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sang Hwan is the last honest, decent cop; unfortunately he is weak
unable to stand up for himself as gangs roam wild. But one day as Sang
Hwan chases a thief, he encounters a young girl named Wi-Jin. Who
attempts to knock the thief out with a palm blast..unfortunately, the
palm blast rushes past the thief and knocks out Sang Hwan. As Sang Hwan
regains consciences, he finds himself in the presence of Immortals, who
are willing to train him.
I saw the trailer and was sold, I needed to watch this film, it was very funny and smart. And I have to say, I haven't been let down.
The lead actor is fantastic as the bumbling cop, destined for greatness...He just nails the role perfectly. While the beautiful So-Yi Yoon is just hilarious as the no nonsense warrior, who is willing to train with Sang Hwan. All the actors are fantastic, they give warmth to their roles. There is some hilarious dialogue included at the most random moments. Doo Hong Jung appear in the movie as well, who I have seen in 'City of Violence', his role is a little stale but his martial arts are flawless.
The film is long and sometimes you feel as if scenes are unnecessary but honestly keep watching because one of the most, if not best fight scenes appears in the middle of the movie. As Sang Hwan demonstrates everything he has learnt, as he demolishes a gang. Simply spellbinding.
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