Thursday, 14 May 2015


The great thing about revisiting your Asian film collection is, more often than not, you stumble across a film or director that reignites your passion for cinema. Back in 2006 I couldn't get enough of Seung-wan Ryoo. In an unfortunate turn of events, I haven't seen anything he has directed since. That's a crying shame, surely? 

I can't wait to revisit No Blood No Tears, The City of Violence and Crying Fist, but first up (because it starts with the letter 'A') is zany martial arts action comedy, Arahan. When a thief on a motorcycle steals a purse from a pedestrian, the clumsy rookie policeman, Sang-hwan, runs after him. Unbeknown to him, a beautiful martial arts specialist is also on his tail. She captures the criminal and injures Sang-hwan in the process. Palm blasts can be tricky it seems. 

After taking him home, The Seven Masters of Tao (of which there are only five) discover a powerful Qi (the spiritual energy of the universe) and realise he could be the all-powerful warrior they have been waiting for. Which is fantastic timing, because business is slow and using the art of levitation for changing light bulbs seems a tad wasteful. As Sang-hwan begins his training, the evil and ambitious Heuk-woon is released from imprisonment. He wants the key that will give him ultimate control of the universe but he won't get it without a fight.

Sang-hwan's annoying character traits do start to grate after a while, fortunately they are laid to rest by an action-packed finale that packs quite the punch. Much of the comedy comes in the first hour, and it is laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, even if Seung-beom Ryu comes close to derailing the movie with his relentless hissy fits. 

Still, there is a lot to admire, particularly So-yi Yoon, who holds her own in a mesmerising finale act. Heuk-woon isn't really the villain you would expect from a movie like this, his intentions aren't despicable enough and he's difficult to hate, but the action choreography is great and the effects work - most of which still stands up today - ranges from admirable to impressive. 

Seung-wan Ryoo has made better films but for the most part Arahan is a pleasing diversion, a martial arts comedy big on both laughs and action. Worth a look.

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