Divine Weapon



Pusan International Film Festival

SEOUL -- "Divine Weapon" is a David and Goliath tug-of-war set in 15th century Korea, when a group of maverick heroes and patriots defeated the vast Chinese army by successfully launching an arrow-slinging rocket called Singijeon.

Director Kim Yoo-jin tries to combine the historical war epic with swashbuckling martial arts and conventional romance in a catch-all commercial blend. As satisfactory domestic boxoffice attests, the film succeeds as a vehicle in rousing national pride. However, for this work to hit the mark in overseas markets, a drastic re-edit from start to finish is required. Otherwise, the digressive narrative prevents the film from going out with a bang.

The quasi-historical story is set in 1448, during the Joseon Dynasty. The Chinese are the bad guys who bully Korea in various ways, demanding extortionate tributes and forbidding her to station troops at the border. In response, King Sejong's general secretly develops a "divine weapon" -- the technologically advanced Singijeon rocket, which pre-dates European equivalents by 300 years.

The duty falls upon heroine Hong-li (Han Eun-jung) to assemble the Singijeon designed by her late father without the manual, which was seized by Chinese spies. She is assisted by a maverick gang led by Chul-woo (Jung Jae-young), the son of a weapons expert.

The script is diligently crammed with dramatic turns that emphasize the heroic duo's high stakes in this venture. However, that also is its problem as their struggle just seems to go on with no cathartic showdown in sight. The lame action choreography could do with some VFX embellishment. As well, the editing goes berserk whenever there is a fight scene, making the audience feel as if they are watching stunts on fast-forward.

In the climactic battle scene, the Korean army is supposedly pitted against a huge phalanx of marauding tribesmen unleashed by the Chinese, but the enemy headcount is not big enough to intimidate. Curiously, despite the reportedly sky-high budget, the production skimped on extras. The paucity of swooping, panoramic shots also considerably reduces the sense of spectacle. Only the rocket launch is on the money, at last showing some visual pyrotechnics that's a blast.

Asian Film Market
Cast: Jung Jae-young, Han Eun-jung, Huh Joon-ho, Ahn Sung-ki.
Director: Kim Yoo-jin.
Screenwriter: Lee Man-hee.
Executive producer: Kim Joo-sung.
Producer: Lee Seung-ryoul.
Director of photography: Byun Hee-sung.
Production designer: Min Eon-ok.
Music: Jo Seong-woo.
Editor: Kim Hyun.
Costumes: Jung Kyung-hee.
Sales agent: CJ Entertainment.
No rating, 97 minutes.
Production: KNJ Entertainment