Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Movie Review - Jeon Woochi

Jeon Woochi Poster

* Title: Jeon Woochi
* Revised Romanization: Jeon Woo Chi

* Hangul: 전우치

* Director: Choi Dong Hoon

* Runtime: 136 min
* Language: Korean
* Country: South Korea
* Leads: Kang Dong Won, Kim Yoon Seok, Im Soo Jeong


This does contain some spoilers about the villain, but you probably know who it is before even getting into the movie. It's revealed very early on too.

You know, there are good action family movies which you don't take too seriously, despite them doing so for themselves. And then there are movies which are just simply not trying to feign any seriousness and downright play on their wackiness. Jeon Woochi is the latter.

This is based on Korean folklore "The Tale of Jeon Woochi", but I am not aware to what degree it drives its inspiration from it.

The movie opens with a little backstory on the villains and supernatural creatures in the story. It talks about the evil creatures of it, as well as certain benign persons who managed to royally mess up and release said evil creatures to the world. The "good guys" in this movie are generally pretty useless in some aspects.

The Idiots
These three being the most useless idiots in this story

These goblins, as the subtitles name them, are causing a mess and going after a pipe which will make anyone who plays it its master and ruler over the world.

Woochi is not the most willing man to stop them, but he is kind of thrown into this mess while he is selfishly, of course, trying to find two items which will prove he is the greatest wizard alive.

The first half of the movie takes place in a period setting, before Woochi and his sidekick Choraengi are re-animated in our present, having been locked inside paintings after being set up by the main antagonist.

First order of business in modern day Seoul? Getting plastered with foreign booze.

The Story and Characters:

Not the most complicated story around, really. This is a fantasy action movie we're talking about and it's a comedy. Bad creatures being bad, idiot Woochi being an idiot. There are the usual elements you'll find in such movies. A sort-of love interest (not much happens, as this is a family movie), an antagonist who is simply evil because he kills people left and right, but never really reveals much motivation behind that hate, and the usual arrogant-manboy-turns-hero plot.

But even if the story is simple and easy to follow, the characters are quite fun and fresh. When one first watches the movie, they can seem a bit extreme, but if you are used to Korean cinema, you should have no issues with that.

Woochi is a pompous antihero who is so full of it that he's exploding with arrogance and self-admiration. He expects everyone to know and admire him and if they don't, he doesn't mind stooping so low as to "kindly inform" them on how he can hurt them unless they like him. Quite the jerk. A jerk with a befitting sidekick, who is quite insensitive himself, although justifiably pissed at his boss for treating him like a dog (pun intended).

The face of a guy whose pride just got trampled on

Choraengi is a bit more down to Earth than Woochi, but you quickly discover they are kind of meant for each other, on account of both of them being the same kind of crazy and dim.

"The same kind of crazy and dim" illustrated

We also have the lady of the movie, In Kyeong. She is quite a likable character, as she has some spunk where it does not endanger her work and she also has her feminine side who kind of enjoys playing hard to get for the hot tall man in a biker outfit.


Sorry, I had to pause and remember that... Right, her picture.

In Kyeong
Her smile is contradicted by the fiery mischievous look in her eyes

The antagonist is just evil for the sake of it and the 3 idiots who let the goblins out are exactly that. Idiots. Not evil, just really arrogant and slow. Well, one of them is a bit nicer. No wonder the other two they don't get along with Woochi. They're quite similar.

The Cast:

The cast is probably what is making the simple story and not really developed characters fun. In fact, it gets this movie a great big thumbs up, because the actors and their chemistry and ability to sync their performances and comedy is just awesome.

Kang Dong Won is more known for his darker and more serious roles, but he is hilarious, albeit a bit weird, when he goes for laughs. Weird works with comedy though and you can really tell if an actor is talented or just good at something when you have seen them in comedy and drama alike. His Woochi is good because he is wacky and funny, but also because he wipes the smile off your face when he finally gets serious. It's quite difficult to make the viewer change how they view a character within a few scenes, without making the change seem too sudden or weird for said character.

One of the few moments where Woochi looks like he knows what the hell he's doing

Im Soo Jeong proves, yet again, that she is a complete chameleon of an actress who just has something fresh and totally different to show in each role, using the most subtle ways to do it. Any lesser actress would have made In Kyeong boring to watch. Not this lady though.

Femme Fatale
In Kyeong isn't written as awesome as she is portrayed by Im

Hwadam is pretty standard villain material and we don't even get any motives from him other than "I am a major prick", but Kim Yoon Seok's charisma does cause you to fear this creature. The way he carries himself is just so graceful and charmingly oppressive that you really don't need to know why or how his character turned out to be this way. You can tell he is one dangerous and fascinating individual and you just want to see more of the actor's performance.

He makes Hwadam so badass that you almost dig him more than Woochi

I really want to mention them all, but I'd be here all day so I'll just say that, despite me not giving them their own text, every single important character in this is graced with an actor/actress that works magic with what they have. What they have isn't a lot, but without this great cast, it would cause the movie to fail.

What you see:

Fancy wire action, nice CG (considering Korean standards), good sets, a car chase, some 'splosions. What you would expect from an action fantasy film. It's as visually pleasing as it's supposed to get and although it does not try anything too original or artistic, it works for what it is.

There was a specific sequence near the end which was rather nice, appropriately enough for a "final battle" and I personally enjoyed the scene with the Woochi clones very much. I really liked how they all had their extreme personalities and the dud one was priceless. Jeon Woochi is quite useless to begin with so the spell going wrong felt very much in keeping with his amateurish ways.

Why face the enemy when you can face the allies who can't understand how dim you are?

What you hear:

Orchestral score. A rather good one. Heavy pieces for the action, good use of the music to mix the past and present too. It has its whimsical bits as well, which is kind of necessary in an action comedy and I really liked those pieces too. The sound is very good too and sound effects are as important to this movie as good CG. They also add to the comedy a few times. I don't think I'll ever see a horse and not imagine it having Yoo Hae Jin's voice again, after this movie.

Some Things To Wrap Up:

A fun family-ish movie. Slightly lame humor at times, but it's cute for trying and it is also for teens, so you can imagine it's not aimed at the most witty and mature audiences anyway. Good action, lots of lovely wire action, including "flying" and walking on walls, a very good cast which takes this from "ok" to "quite nice". I personally love the mood this movie puts me in. Light, easy on the eyes and brain.

It's a movie you simply leave your brain at the door to watch, but not your willingness to laugh, enjoy some creative action and have fun. It's light entertainment, but it's entertaining and it's fun.

And let's not forget the great cast

Who will like it:

Those not too demanding on issues of plot, character development etc. This is a movie for teens, I said this just now. It's just a big fest of weird humorous characters, action, rabbits and rats (of the monstrous variety) and a lot of visuals.


Although it's great fun, not everything was spot on and I couldn't help but feel it wasn't as epic and "big" as they could have made it. If the movie had a good plot or not intentionally silly characters, I would not rely on the action and scale of events for fun, but this is the kind of movie where brainless action is all you get and I wanted it to feel more kick ass somehow. But even if not perfect, it's still good. I love it myself, but I like the cast and I was appropriately prepared for its silliness. Can't say about others.

On the Fanboy Scale: Im Soo Jeong is a pretty woman, but she's not exactly looking gorgeous here and when she does go "femme fatale" for a short few scenes, the make-up is so overdone that I just didn't get the "she's gorgeous" feeling. But Miss Doctor here is hot too, so there.

Although you really don't want this one to examine you

On the Fangirl Scale: Some credit goes to Kim Yoon Seok, because charming villains are always appreciated, but since he's the ajeossi type not all might like, Kang Dong Won is the one to look at here. He's such an idiot most of the time, though, so I can't exactly call him hot. Cute and adorkable, yes. Although this gets the rest of the points because of that biker outfit alone. And all the adorkableness does contribute. Because if you are a fangirl, you'd love the silliness as well.

You didn't think I was going to leave you without the biker outfit, did you?

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