War of the Arrows
Korea (South) has always been very adept at making patriotic films in which
they are fighting either the North Koreans, the Japanese or the Chinese -
or in this case specifically the Manchu's. Some of these nationalistic films
lay it on too thick with multiple coats of jingoism - at least to the foreign
audience - but many of them hit a lot of emotional notes that everyone can
relate to. This is one of those. I expect that is because it co-mingles country
and family very well.
The first 20 minutes of the film almost had me reaching for the "stop" button
as it has a prelude in which two young children escape after their father
is executed for treason and go to live with a friend of the family. The children
are extremely annoying. Then it picks up 18 years later and the son has turned
into a bit of a ne'er-do-well and the daughter is getting married and there
is some silly attempts at comedy. I was groaning. Then on a dime the film
gets really good. It just takes some murder, mayhem and a Manchu invasion
to do so.
It takes place during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1897) in the 1600's and
the Manchu's are invading (which they did in 1636). They destroy the city
in which the brother and sister live, killing many and taking hundreds as
slaves. The brother Nam-Yi (Park Hae il) was out of town lollygagging but
the sister Ja-in (Moon Chae-won) is taken away. It turns out that Nam-Yi
has one skill - the bow and arrow - and one principle - to protect his sister.
That spells trouble for the Manchu's as he tracks his sister down and kills
one Manchu after another on the way. Then the Manchu's send an elite group
of assassins after him and it gets real good ala The Naked Prey and quite
tense as arrows are whizzing around like gnats on a hot summer day. The film
was a big box office hit.