Cinema Epoch // 2004 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 29th, 2010
With his bare hands he conquered the world and became the legend.
As World War II winds down, a young, naïve Korean man (Dong-kun Yang) heads over to Japan, hoping to become a hot-shot fighter pilot. But the Japanese brass aren't interested in giving him a shot and even go so far as to stab him with a sword to prove how little they're interested in his services.
Fast forward to the end of the war and Japan is experiencing a rough patch. Criminal gangs wander the street, racism is prevalent (especially against Koreans, apparently) and bored U.S. serviceman look to mix it up. Our hero has been toiling away on these streets, earning the dubious nickname of "The Bedwetter" because of his cowardice. But when his mentor and hero falls in a street fight, the Bedwetter exiles himself to the wilderness to train himself up in a new brand of karate -- against the backdrop of female-fronted symphonic metal -- and eventually return and run the martial arts Japan circuit and show the world his dope moves.
Cinema Epoch's release is a solid one; Fighter in the Wind blends some well-executed period action with a true story. It's not something I'll be in any rush to revisit again soon, but I feel it was two hours marginally well-spent. How's that for a ringing endorsement?
The film has a great look. Writer/director Yang Yunho captures the post-war era well, shifting from the zaniness of the city streets and into globe-trotting mode for the pivotal phase of the action, the Street Fighter 2-feeling geography-traversing karate tournament. The man in the spotlight (inspired by Masutatsu Oyama) is a folk legend -- particularly to Koreans and the karate aficionados -- and the staging of his life story reflects this adulation.
One thing to be aware of: this isn't an action movie. There are a handful of fights, most notably a smackdown with a goth-looking bad-ass, but the action moments are brief and understated. Fighter in the Wind is more interested with storytelling and biography than wowing with stunt sequences. That's the game-plan, and I'm down with it; though I am a bit disappointed I didn't get to see more cinematic karate action, a martial art that doesn't get a lot of love in combat films. Also, the final fight is a letdown.
Solid DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround (Korean with English subtitled), hefty making-of featurettes and cast and crew interviews.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Korean)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated