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Ko - production in Busan
  • by Pierce Conran /  Oct 28, 2019

  • 2011122 MIN | Epics/Historical, Action
    DIRECTOR KIM Han-min
    CAST PARK Hae-il, RYU Seung-ryong, GIM Mu-yeol, MOON Chae-won, LEE Gyoung-young
    RELEASE DATE August 10, 2011
    CONTACT Lotte Cultureworks
    TEL +82 2 3470 3400
    FAX +82 2 3470 3549

    Three years before he ascended to the top of the all-time box office charts with Roaring Currents (2014), which remains the best-selling Korean film of all time over five years after its release, director KIM Han-min ventured into period action fare for the first time with War of the Arrows, a relatively straightforward but enormously effective action romp. War of the Arrows proved to be the surprise hit in the summer of 2011, far exceeding the totals of the creature feature Sector 7 and the Korean War drama The Front Line, which were expected to be the major films of the season.

    After being orphaned in the King Injo revolt during the Joseon Dynasty in the 16th century, Na-mi (PARK Hae-il) and his sister Ja-in (MOON Chae-won) are taken in and raised by a noble (LEE Gyoung-young). Na-mi grows up to become a formidable archer, but with a chip on his shoulder that becomes evident when he refuses to give his sister permission to marry their guardian’s son Su-koon (GIM Mu-yeol).

    The pair wed anyway but during the ceremony, while Na-mi is out practicing in the woods, the Qing Dynasty attacks, slaughtering several civilians, their guardian among them, and hauling away the survivors, including Na-mi and Su-koon. Using his skills, Na-mi tracks the war party to save his sister, but he himself is being chased by Jushinta (RYU Seung-ryong), a fierce Chinese warrior.

    Many elements came together to give War of the Arrows a stellar 7.47 million admission haul, making it the best-selling Korean film of 2011 (admittedly a slow year for the local industry), including strong casting with Memories of Murder (2003) star PARK Hae-il facing off as the stoic hero Na-mi against ace character actor RYU Seung-ryong (Extreme Job) as his Chinese rival, just a few roles before he broke out as a leading man.

    Yet what really makes the film work is its lean approach to the period drama. Shorn of the King’s court scheming that would become increasingly prevalent in the years to come, the film becomes an engaging rescue drama that constantly moves forward, aided by tense and inventive set pieces, with only minor melodramatic detours throughout.

    Director KIM hasn’t directed a film since Roaring Currents, but he has remained in the period war mode, having had a hand in writing and produced this summer’s hit Japanese Colonial Era resistance action-drama The Battle: Roar to Victory.
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