A childish Korean wizard is trapped in a magic scroll for hundreds of years, only to be released into modern-day Korea to hunt down evil creatures that threaten the city.
Korean cinema can be a hit-or-miss proposition for American audiences. Sure, their horror films are quite good, even if they are obsessed with long black hair being scary for some reason. Their wire-fu films, however, don’t always work. Woochi, which was a hit in 2009 for Korean audiences, takes an original approach on the wire-fu formula by mixing in fantasy elements and a modern day setting. It isn’t a great film by any means, but it is a goofy, entertaining adventure that is far better than the usual summer fare we have to muddle through.
Gang Dong-Won plays Woochi with plenty of character and charisma that transcends the language barrier. Woochi’s an immature Tao Master, a wizard who hasn’t quite figured out how to conjure up magic for himself, and has to rely on amulets, spells on pieces of paper, to wield his power. After being imprisoned in a scroll for centuries, he is released into modern day Korea to kill some demons (or goblins as they are called in the original Korean translation) that have also been released. It provides for a unique mix of wire-fu and magic in a modern setting, and the “fish out of water” element works well, thanks in large part to Dong-Won and a colorful supporting cast.
Woochi has some great special effects and some well-choreographed fight scenes (thank G.I. Joe Retaliation’s Doo-hong Jung for that), but the film lacks a real focus; it gets diverted into way too many subplots and side jokes. With so many characters that are actually interesting, the director deems it necessary to give each one a little too much screen time. The film clocks in at over two hours, and some trimming would have done wonders for the pacing.
Even though it does drag a bit, and has a strange, abrupt ending, Woochi still has enough action and plenty of charm to make it watchable. The use of wizards, magic, and even super-powered animals that fight are nicely done, and while Woochi may not be a classic film, it is a worthwhile diversion.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The Blu-ray sports a nice video transfer, with bright colors and excellent detail. There seems to be a slight amount of motion blur, but otherwise, the image holds up well during action scenes. The high-definition image does, however, show the limitations of the CGI used to create the film’s creatures. They look a bit too cartoony.
The audio features a strong 5.1 DTS HD soundtrack in the original Korean with subtitles, as well as dubbed English. Both are well done.
Fans of Woochi should rejoice, because this disc is PACKED with extras. A promotional “making of” featurette called “The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie” discusses the film’s unique style and features several interviews. A number of deleted scenes are included in one continuous reel. They don’t add much to the film, so it makes sense that they were cut. The clips are roughly edited and come from a workprint, so they include timecoding.
Some “behind the scenes” footage is also included, which is basically raw footage of stunts being filmed, without any narration. Individual interviews with the director, cast, and crew are included as well. Six production featurettes, covering everything to pre-production, stunt training, filming, and post production, are included. They do provide some interesting looks into the production process, and are fun to watch. Four additional production featurettes focus on the CGI effects alone. Finally, the original Korean trailer is included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings: (1-10 scale)
Overall grade: 8
Woochi is a fun adventure, but it wanders off the path and bit and needed better editing. The technical presentation is excellent, and the extras are superb. Fans of the film should definitely pick it up, as the disc is packed, and everyone else should at least give it a watch.
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Running time: 115 minutes
Rating: Not rated (violence)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Korean DTS HD 5.1 and 2.0, English DTS HD 5.1 and 2.0
Special features: “The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie” featurette, Deleted scenes, Behind-the-scenes footage, Interviews, Six production featurettes, Four CGI production featurettes, trailer.