Blades of Blood, 2010.
Directed by Lee Joon-Ik.
Starring Jeong-min Hwang, Seong-hyeon Baek, Seung-won Cha, Ji-hye Han and Kim Chang-Wan.
In Sixteenth Century Korea, an illegitimate son seeks vengeance for the murder of his father with the help of a blind swordsman. Meanwhile, the country’s leadership is falling apart while an invasion from the Japanese draws closer.
With a large proportion of foreign films, it’s not just the language barrier that can stop a white middle class male (such as myself) from completely comprehending everything that is going on. It’s more than safe to say that my knowledge of Korean history is equably negligible to my knowledge of Korea in general. I’m not ignorant, I just haven’t got round to that page on Wikipedia just yet. But now I know a little more from watching Blades of Blood.
It’s Sixteenth Century Korea and a political organisation known as The Alliance are looking to seek power from a regime that is falling apart. Probably not the best time for this, considering the Japanese are prepared to invade. Now, on paper this sounds pretty exciting, but unfortunately it isn’t as spectacular as I was hoping for. Impressive, but not spectacular. The story focuses around Han Kyun-ju, a young bastard child to one of the leaders in the regime. Kyun-ju is cast away from his family for being a lovechild, but soon witnesses his father being murdered by the film’s villain, Lee Mong Hak.
Mong Hak is leading The Alliance in order to seek the throne for himself, which led him to kill Jung Yeo-rip, a member of The Alliance who stood in his way. One character stood out for me in this film and that was Hwang, a blind swordsman with a somewhat cheeky sense of humour. Hwang takes Kyun-ju under his wing and is constantly bothered by Kyun-ju wanting to know how to fight like him. This leads to some funny fight scenes between the two. The rest of the fight scenes, the proper ones that is, are shot very well, but could have used a touch more flare on the choreography. Not that I’m an expert on that subject. Well not until I read that Wikipedia page, anyway.
Like I said earlier, it all sounds well and good on paper, but the story feels a little too drawn out. The story is a journey, but it’s not a very interesting one and the destination isn’t anything to swing a sword about for. The character of Kyun-ju feels a bit too hammed up to be taken seriously, and when I say hammed up, I really mean hammed up for an emotional teenager. If it wasn’t for Hwang mocking and talking down to him at every given moment, I would have considered the film to be a lost cause. How I love Hwang.
Blades of Blood is a film about constant struggle set to a backdrop of politics and invasion. When someone isn’t talking, there’s bound to be a sword fight scene to occur in hopes to advance the plot. The story’s not too complicated, but not too interesting and most of the acting is pretty average. However, it is beautifully shot and some of the sword fights did keep me on the edge of my seat. Not that I’m an expert on that subject. Well not until I read that Wikipedia page, anyway.
Will Preston is a student at the University of Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website), presents a weekly radio show on PURE FM and makes various short films.