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June 2011

Blades Of Blood

cast: Hwang Jung-min, Han Ji-yye, Cha Seung-won, and Lee Hae-yeong

director: Lee Joon-ik

104 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2

RATING: 4/10
review by James A. Stewart

Blades Of Blood

This is a film about revenge. Or is it about politics? Perhaps it is a story whose mission is to show the futility of standing against the man. After watching it I am not sure at all. Certainly, the plot in Blades Of Blood (aka: Goo-reu-meul beo-eo-nan dal-cheo-reom) seems to get lost in a miasma of directorial tricks and flawed character development.

Things start off promisingly enough as Alliance leader Lee Monghak tells of his fears of a Japanese invasion. He argues about the ineffectiveness of the nobility to defend Korea from the forthcoming swarm and pleads with those around him to trust the Alliance. He wants them to support him in his bloody quest to destroy the nobility and allow the Alliance to lead the nation to safety.

As with many Asian sword films, the aesthetics are slick and the production super. But, alas, in the case of Blades Of Blood there is a big gaping hole where the plot should be. As Monghak goes around cutting up the monarchy and becomes the antithesis of what he proclaims, the path of the film gets lost. You see, instead of focusing on the Monghak's stammering journey from protector to some sort of Orwellian nightmare, director Lee Joon-ik introduces Han, the bastard son of a nobleman left for dead by Monghak after a particularly gruesome scene during which Han's father is killed.

Han is nursed back to health by the one character in the film with some, erm character; the blind swordsman Hwang Junghak. The idiosyncrasy of Junghak's character makes him funny and interesting at the same time; and as he heals, then trains, Han, you start to get a feel for what his personal motivation is. It is then difficult to give a clear steer to the rest of the film in respect to story development as it appears to be neither focused on Han nor Monghak, instead it lands somewhere in between, and as a result nowhere.

All of this is a shame as the screen work is good and some of the swordplay impressive. Yes, there are a bit too many slow motion scenes but they are at least stylishly done and in the main are in vogue with the fight scene they are representing. Blades Of Blood is another well-shot action flick from the far east but it lacks any real import to make it anything more than an eye pleasing film. More is the pity.



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