Lionsgate // 2010 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 21st, 2011
Destiny is drenched in blood.
It's a turbulent time in Korea. A Japanese invasion looms and political upheaval threatens to tear apart the country's social fabric. A rebel alliance marches through the land putting wood to the nobles and a poor guy named Han (Baek Sunghyun) is left an orphan, his entire family wiped out at the hands of a badass rebel commander Lee Monghak (Cha Seungwon). Han retreats to the woods where he meets a blind swordsman and seeks to hone his stabbing craft. Eventually, as the country implodes in grandiose bloody fashion, Han comes face-to-face with Lee and the two finally have it out.
Blades of Blood did very little for me. It's less an action film and more of a historical drama. The Lionsgate marketing gurus certainly imply that a boatload of action awaits with their provocative disc design, but the actual swordplay is a relatively small portion of the 110 minute runtime. In lieu of wall-to-wall fighting, you get wall-to-wall "conniving" and "training." It's all about the political machinations, and the narrative momentum often locks its gears when the script gets too talky. There's a lot going on and it's not easy to follow, even though we all know the endgame is the showdown between Han and Lee. I was restless.
We do get some sporadic fighting, the best of which are the big battle scenes landen with background actors. We have no problem following the story here and there's a surprising amount of delicious "bloody violence" (according to the MPAA rating). On the other hand, individual swordfights are more uneven, shot with shaky-cam and hastily edited. Blah.
When we finally get to the long-awaited faceoff, it's not too bad. The fight takes place in a large-scale area following a battle, and the choreography is not bad. Both actors (and their stuntmen) know their way around a blade, but the payoff sidesteps the eye-popping finale, opting instead for a more subdued culmination typical of a drama that might take itself too seriously (most evident in the ridiculous final sequence).
Straightforward DVD from Lionsgate: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital (Korean and English), a seven-minute making-of featurette, and a series of cast interviews.
Guilty. More blades and more blood next time, please.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Korean)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R