2 October 2002 | Shiva-11
My kind of martial arts movie
By Greg Ursic
Being the best at something is great (or so I hear): you get to bathe in the limelight, be adored by legions, and quite possibly get loads of cash. But whether you're the heavyweight boxing champ or king of the tiddly-winks set, there's one annoying downside - someone is always trying to knock you off your throne. Throw superpowers into the mix and things get even more complicated.
Expelled yet again for fighting, Kyeong-su Kim is transferred to Volcano High, a cross between Hogwarts and Xavier's school for gifted children: the students possess a stunning range of martial and mental skills. Unfortunately for Kyu, who has sworn off fighting, he finds himself caught between warring sports clubs vying for control of the school and a secret book of magic. And as the powerful new kid everyone wants Kyeong-Su on their team or out of the way. And you thought your high school was tough.
From the opening sequence with its pounding score and action teaser you know that this film is going to be a lot of fun. Boasting a retinue of strutting characters with pompous sounding names, hilarious slapstick, physical humor, strong female roles, leather clad villains, intricate, over-the-top Matrix-style wire work and great CGI, this film offers the martial arts aficionado everything they could want. There's even a fleshed out subplot that addresses the rote style learning and nonconformist obedience typical of old-style Asian schooling. But I digress. The fight sequences are carefully parsed out, leaving the viewer wanting for more, but the payoff is well worth the wait - the final showdown has the best combination of choreography/visual effects/mood/scoring that I've seen in a film in this genre.
My only concern was that the subtitles were very dim and placed low on the screen making them difficult to read. Unless you're trying to make notes like I was, this won't be a big problem.
If you like your martial arts films loud and flashy (and who doesn't?), this is one you definitely want to see on the big screen. I'm already waiting for the sequel.
P.S. I hear that Resurrection of the Little Match Girl is even better!