A fighting movie from Korea, not the first one nor the last, but one which didn't wish to be entwined within a fluffy romance angle or a heavily calculated action caper. A tightly cast film about a young student name Byung Tae (Hyun-kyoon Lee) facing hard times in a school where he is mercilessly bullied by the fellow students.
Having faced problems in the past, Byung Tae's father, a policeman, has brought him down to a tech school, where the closest thing to the "project-based learning" is the excruciating, army-like push up discipline conducted by the class instructor. Not the best environment for the already angst ridden troublemakers, but a learning experience nonetheless. Mostly silent, soft spoken Byung Tae, loosely resembling the much subtler character Hyun-kyoon so greatly portrayed in 3-Iron, is tired of being on the losing end of every fight so he frantically looks for a martial arts teacher. Bring forth Pan Su, played by the always engaging Yun-shik Baek (the President's Last Bang and Save the Green Planet), who isn't the biggest of guys, but a man of few words and a walk-through the walls type of attitude. Byung wastes no time and asks Pan Su to become his master to which Su replied that Byung better have a wealthy family to pay off the victims' hospital bills, along with the usual jazz on how martial arts aren't meant to serve purely as a fighting weapon but as a mind temple. Still this didn't stop Pan Su from teaching Byung Tae the deadly skill of coin throwing and a head-butting technique which he probably should have figured out himself after all the collar nagging he received in school.
All of this is presented in a comical manner mixed with a few dramatic sequences, which I guess a film dealing with this subject matter couldn't have fully avoided, although I hoped it would. Nothing too sentimental though, but the transition from one to another still felt rather unorthodox, if not a bit irregular and disarming. Regardless, don't expect gravity defying action and wacky humor, as the poster might have suggested. Also nothing groundbreaking in regards to the teacher/student relationship which has been done numerous times and various ways. But some good laughs along with some more realistically choreographed fight scenes and no unnecessary subplots, made watching this film an effortless and an enjoyable experience. The ending reassured me that this film's intent wasn't to promote the art of tear-jerking and sadness, but instead it settled on delivering a rather benevolent message that all you need is a rule-breaking martial artist with a criminal past to teach you how to disregard pain and unleash a proverbial beating that would paint happy faces on bullied boys all over the world.
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