War of the Arrows
A 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.