Review: Duelist / Hyeongsa (2005)

This movie is so full of cliches and it does every one of them so perfect. It’s pure awesome: from the ultra-stylized visuals (probably half of the movie is in slow-motion), the soundtrack ranging from Samurai Fiction-style cheesy rock to orchestral uber-schmalz, to the characters: Namsoon, the main character is a tomboy, a police detective of course falling in love with the beautiful mysterious, melancholic and androgynous villain. Guess if it ends badly? It sure does!

The story isn’t really important and I don’t really get it every single time I watch it but I love everything about the movie, the ridiculous fighting scenes (not much flying, though), Namsoon drunk and crying and screaming and kicking ass at the same time, snow falling in slow motion. This is asian cinema at its best, gender-reversed and wonderful.*

I also love the A Serious Man-style beginning that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the movie: the story of a man who invites himself into the spooky house of a sexy single woman, which gets interrupted because the guy telling the story is distracted. Why never find out what happens next. Nevertheless the thing comes to full circle because the last scene of the movie is the same guy telling how he witnessed the tragic „united in swordplay“-scene (which might arguably the real end of the movie) and almost jerked off to it.**

Oh, and don’t bother with the TV-series based on the same manhwa, it looks just terrible.

*Also no women or other supporting characters dying shortly before the final show-off as a plot-motif. Thumbs up.
** What is a nice comment on how this movie is taking itself not at all serious.

EDIT 2014: Pretty sure this doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, though (and if only barely), since this is one of these strange „only female character in there is the main character“-movies. It still totally rocks, anyway.

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