If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’d know that I get reflexive stars in my eyes, whenever Jang Hyuk gets to put his Fantastic Fight Skillz on display.
Which is why I knew I definitely wanted to check out this movie, once I discovered that it had become available.
All in all, it’s a pretty enjoyable watch – with some lens adjustments, which I’ll talk about shortly.
Psst: Links to watch are at the end of the review!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Tae Yul (Jang Hyuk), the best swordsman in Joseon, lives as a recluse in the mountains with his daughter, Tae Ok (Kim Hyun Soo).
In her efforts to find a cure for her father’s failing eyesight, Tae Ok finds herself captured by slave traders. Tae Yul raises his sword again, to save her.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. It’s not necessary to follow the political stuff too closely.
There’s a political background to this story, but honestly, at its heart, this one strikes me as a pretty straightforward cowboy sort of movie.
It’s clear who the bad guys are, and who the good guys are, and it’s all about them facing off to varying degrees, pretty much all of the way through.
2. Don’t expect much nuance, in general.
Show portrays the Joseon bad guys as bad, but the bad guys from Qing are made out to be much, much worse.
I don’t think Show means this personally (for example, if you are of Chinese descent, like I am); it’s just part of the cowboy movie approach to this story.
3. This is a Jang Hyuk showcase.
This entire movie is very much a Jang Hyuk showcase, and with good reason, since his fighting form is beautiful and graceful, and just very enjoyable to behold.
Just remember that Tae Yul is the Best Swordsman in Joseon, and therefore, is able to singlehandedly take down a legion of enemies.
That suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite, when signing up for this show.
4. Lots of people get killed along the way.
Maybe it goes without saying, but I thought I should say it anyway, in case it’s helpful to any of you.
This is a sword-fighting extravaganza in the spirit of a cowboy flick, and lots of blood gets shed, by extras and characters alike.
On the upside, though, for the high body count, it’s not really very bloody at all. I’d say it’s about a 3/10, on the Bloody Scale. So even if you’re squeamish about blood on your screen, you should be able to tolerate this one just fine, I think.
STUFF I LIKED
Mainly, I just really liked watching Jang Hyuk in this, heh. 🤩
For one thing, like I just mentioned, his fighting form is glorious and beautiful, and the story and fight choreography is all designed to showcase that, to maximum effect.
In my head, Dae Gil had adopted Tae Ok, because he’d taken pity on the orphan girl, and had taken her to live quietly in the mountains, and raise her as his own. And yet, somehow, there’s a Jumo who’s still sweet on him, the way the two Jumos were sweet on General Choi, in Chuno. 😁
I know. It sometimes doesn’t take very much to amuse me, heh. 😅
This alternative narrative really captured my imagination, though, so while I largely let my brain gloss over the political background of this story, my brain happily replaced the context of this story, with this stuff that I made up in my head. 😁
One other thing I did like, was Tae Yul’s relationship with Tae Ok. Their father-daughter bond is sweet, and I can totally see that she is his whole world, and he is hers.
Which makes it easy to see why Tae Yul would throw his entire being, into saving her, when she finds herself in danger. That’s really all the realism and convincing that I needed, in this story.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
As we get into the final stretch of the movie, the fight scenes become more frequent and more high-stakes, and I feel like that’s par for the course, for this type of film.
To be brutally honest, I didn’t really feel bad for any of the characters who die in the process, even though the death of Other Excellent Swordsman (Jung Man Shik) feels rather unnecessary.
Also, not gonna lie. Even though it doesn’t really make sense to me that Tae Yul randomly slit the throat of the token Westerner woman (Angelina Danilova) while dueling with Gurutai (Joe Taslim), since that would cause Gurutai to want to take it out on Tae Ok, to spite Tae Yul, I did get a flash of gratification, just from seeing Gurutai’s shocked expression.
Yes, the almost blind dude is skilled enough to kill your token lover-assistant, while fully engaging your superior, condescending self in combat. 😏
To be honest, I hadn’t been super sure that Tae Yul &/or Tae Ok would survive our story, since Show’s body count is pretty darn high.
But in the end, Tae Yul does manage to save Tae Ok, and we even see that Tae Yul’s ready to come down from the mountain, to live among other people. That’s a happier ending than I had dared hope for, to be honest.
Not bad, all in all, I say.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A reasonably enjoyable popcorn sword flick, with Jang Hyuk as the main draw.
FINAL GRADE: B
WHERE TO WATCH:
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