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  Woochi Wizard Of Odds
Year: 2009
Director: Choi Dong-hun
Stars: Kim Yun-seok, Lim Su-jeong, Kang Dong-won, Yum Jung-ah, Kim Hyo-jin, Yu Hae-jin, Baek Yun-shik, Song Young-chang, Kim Sang-ho, Ju Jin-mo, Kwon Tae-won, Seon Woo-seon, Kong Jeon-hwan, Yun Jong-ku, Son Hyeon-woo
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Thousands of years ago, a magic flute was lost when the goblins who were imprisoned for millennia were accidentally let out one day too soon, and their evil was unleashed on the world. In the present, a homeless man has been picked up in Seoul and taken to a hospital where he is interviewed by a doctor there, charting his belief that he is actually a god down to megalomania. But what if his tales of having deliberately forgotten his past as a deity that have now been reawakened by his treatment are all true - and what if the powerful goblins are back as well?

A huge hit in its native South Korea, Woochi was a fantasy epic that worked up a neat air of invention on the budget a fraction of that of your average Hollywood blockbuster, and brought with it an infectious sense of humour that buoyed it over a plot that starts out looking incredibly involved, but transpired to be pretty much your basic "characters get flung around the set in major fight scenes" business. Not that it pretended to be anything else other than a colourful romp through Korean mythology as envisaged by these filmmakers, and on its level it was successful enough to translate to non-Korean audiences as well.

Woochi, if you're wondering, is our hero, played by Kang Dong-won and something of an upstart when we first meet him, full of himself and unwilling to pay enough attention to his elders, although when you cotton on that those elders were the ones who caused all the trouble in the first place you might not be that enamoured of them either. We encounter him five hundred years before the stuff in the hospital where the goblins, of which there appear to be, er, two (rendered with special effects to look like half-human half-animal creatures) are up to no good thanks to everyone's obsession with securing that magic flute.

Woochi battles them, predictably, but finds his talents which are represented by spells written on little yellow scraps of paper - I'm not going to say a post-it would have been a better idea, but they hadn't been invented five centuries ago anyway - lacking and it looks as if the goblins and their mysterious leader might have won the day. Except the film doesn't mind keeping its characters waiting to find out, so we jump forward to now to see what the result will be. This section comprises the bulk of the narrative, and director Choi Dong-hun, who made his name with action (directing those pertinent sequences in such movies as The Good, The Bad, The Weird), lets his imagination run riot as to how many ways you can throw a stuntman around a street.

And that's without pointing out that you can throw things at those stuntmen as well: the possibilities are endless. If you've seen a handful of the biggest titles to emerge from South Korea over the ten years prior to the release of this one, then you might well recognise some of the main players here, with main baddie Kim Yun-seok the middle-aged star of The Chaser, and love interest Lim Su-jeong the afflicted girl from I'm a Cyborg But That's OK. They all figuratively roll up their sleeves and get involved with the mayhem here, which does descend into one smash up after another, but with such idiosyncrasies as the dog in human form (Yu Hae-jin) who is only hanging around to be made a true person, or the cast's habit of being able to travel through pictures (both paintings and television), or even the movie set that becomes a lightly mindbending representation of Woochi's battleground, you have an engaging fantasy whose pace never flags.

[CineAsia's double disc DVD has an audio commentary, trailers, about a billion featurettes, and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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