War of the Arrows

PhotobucketA skilled archer and his sister are the sole survivors in a family that has been branded traitors. Nam-yi’s singular purpose in life is to keep his sister safe from harm. 13 years later, on the day of his sister’s wedding, their village is attacked by the Qing Dynasty of China. His sister Ja-in is taken away and he sets out to take down the Qing army and rescue her. Nam-yi’s plodding pursuit of the kidnappers is the entire thrust of this plot. Other than the accomplished costume design, there’s really not much to highlight this action thriller. Despite its extremely limited release in the U.S., this grossed $50 million in South Korea and became the 11th most attended film ever there.

Our fable is set during the second Manchurian invasion of Korea in the 17th century, but you’d never get any of that by watching this movie. Superficial tale is more concerned with endless POV shots of flying arrows in slow motion going back and forth in a display of archery prowess. There is scant historical context or even dialogue for that matter to give depth to the narrative. Even the romantic subplot is forgettable. I suppose there’s drama in cheering a single man going on the offensive armed with nothing more than a bow and arrow. There’s a few mildly interesting battle sequences, but none of them rise above the action of a decent TV show. At one point we are introduced to Jyu Shin-Ta, the leader of Qing Dynasty’s troop. At least he gives a human face to the enemy that solicits some much needed excitement. Unfortunately it’s too little, too late. Only in the final confrontation do we truly get the emotional connection the story lacks. I dare say there’s more character development in the animated Kung Fu Panda.

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7 Responses to “War of the Arrows”

  1. I totally agree with everything you said. However, I loved the arrow wars.

  2. I’ve never even heard of this one…guess that’s not a problem. Good review.

  3. Aww, I’m sorry I led you astray. Here was my review of it on flixster:

    “Not until the end of the movie did I realize I was rooting AGAINST my people (Qing Dynasty) wishing for each and every soldier to be shot dead with Nam Yi’s bow and arrow with his precise deadly aim. This is no typical period piece that gets weighted down with gratuitous scenes of blood, gore and the artillery of warfare. No, this is a time when men were real men – who can run like the wind for several miles and perform such physical feats as leaping across creeks from one cliff edge to another while still being able to kill with deadly precision via their bows and arrows – and when promises are kept, no matter what, even if it means risking death. The story of Nam Yi’s allegiance to his sister was riveting and pulsating. The action, suspense and the “mano to mano” via bows and arrows combat were absolutely riveting down to the very last scene – kudos to the cinematography and art direction. I was cheering and fist pumping all the way through! Definitely one of the most satisfying Korean films I’ve seen to date; no wonder it’s a multi award winner.”

    • This doesn’t even show that you gave it 5 out of 5 stars – a perfect review! That’s what caused me to rent this. I really wanted to like it as much as you did. I’m sorry I didn’t actually.

  4. Great review of a film I’ll surely pass on. If there’s better character development in Kung Fu Panda, I definitely don’t want to see it.

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