Well Go Usa // 2011 // 123 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 23rd, 2012
It's the 17th century and things are getting crazy on the Korean peninsula. The king's archer and his family have been tagged as traitors, his two children managing to escape capture. Raised in exile, eldest son Nam-Yi takes up his father's lethal craft, perfecting his arrow-slinging.
Meanwhile, the second Manchu invasion is about to commence and Qing China sends in its goons to get their mayhem on. Now it falls to Nam-Yi to track down his sister and brother-in-law, while fending off a savage attack from a squad of elite Chinese killers. You know what that means? Arrow murder!
Oh, the arrow murder!
Going into War of the Arrows, I thought I'd be in store for yet another historical drama. It's seems like the period epics making their way to our shores lately have been plot-heavy duty excursions focused on history and political maneuverings with sporadic large-scale, CGI-enhanced army-on-army battle scenes. To be honest, that sort of moviemaking has left me cold since...well, The Lord of the Rings. Come on Asian filmmakers, give us something we haven't seen!
Thankfully, director Kim Han-Min has answered that challenge in a big way. War of the Arrows is pretty awesome, a straight-arrow (ahem) actioner that delivers two hours worth of bodacious violence, slick cinematography, and an absorbing storyline.
Kim Han-Min hits all the bullet points:
* The villains are terrible people and we want to see them get impaled with arrows constantly -- These guys throw babies down wells and kill the elderly. They absolutely deserve every shaft in the throat.
* Bows and arrows are actually pretty awesome cinematic weapons of death-bringing -- I had my doubts. How many different ways can you show arrow death? Turns out, a lot! The myriad ways Nam-Yi goes about his let-em-fly-and-watch-em-die tactics is thrilling. For example, he takes out two guys simultaneously with a half-pound ballistic arrowhead. Oh, yes!
* The stakes are high -- A sister in peril. A brother-in-law with serious leadership potential at risk. A slaughtered people begging for revenge. Definitely lots of weight attached to our hero's actions -- and bigger payoffs when his vengeance is delivered.
* Tiger attack! -- A tiger attacks!
War of the Arrows is most reminiscent of Apocalypto, especially in the second half. You have one overmatched guy running for his life, pursued by a band of murderous soldiers with their own vendetta. Creative, resourceful kills, grown men sprint through foliage, and a forest cat eats a dude's face. See this movie!
Good Blu-ray, too. The 1.78:1/1080p HD transfer is beautiful, effectively pushing out the different color sets and milieus that populate the film. From the costuming to the bloodletting, the visual fidelity is top-shelf. The DTS-HD 5.1 surround -- in original Korean and English dub (go with the original) -- is just as impressive, spreading out the effects through discrete channels with pop and driving the memorable score. Extras: a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, and a sizzle reel.
Bloody exciting stuff. Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Korean)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R