Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Original Title: Banchikwang
Year: 2000
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Writer: Ji-woon Kim
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0261552/
Genre: Comedy, Action

Dae-Ho is an unproductive bank clerk who is late to work every morning and the object of his manager's frustrations. He was a fan of TV wrestling as a child, but can't get out of a headlock. He finds a local wrestling trainer and through a series of events eventually starts to train. He is slowly transformed as he begins his second job as the cheating villain wrestler known as the Foul King. He starts to stand up for himself in odd ways that are not really in his own best interest. Events get out of hand as conflicting influences come together.

All good things must come to an end, and Kang-ho Song month(plusalittleextra) is one of those things.

And what better way to end than a film about pro-wrestling??

Really, the film uses pro-wrestling more as a backdrop and vehicle for showing a common salaryman's issues with confidence and the doldrums of life, and how he attempts to overcome them.

Kang-ho Song is really fantastic again here as the bank clerk Dae-ho. (I apologize in advance for leaving out other actors as they are not properly listed on the IMDb site, and I am too lazy to research further heh). Song displays his slapstick/physical humor side in this film, but still has some nicely done dramatic scenes as well.

Dae-ho begins the film as an awkward guy who is beat up by seemingly everything in life, including literally his boss. Dae-ho is also noticeably frustrated by this, and seeks to change it. Tae-kwon-do is not for him, but professional wrestling is! He begins training at a local wrestling school that only has two students with an alcoholic teacher who used to be a famous rule breaking heel called Ultimate Tiger Mask. Eventually donning a mask, the audience can begin to see changes in Dae-ho as he gains confidence, for better or worse.

Ji-woon Kim handles wrestling comedically for much of the film, but seems to have a respect for the business as well. Sometimes a weird line is drawn between what is real and what is not, as we see some fighting in the matches crossing the line to real punches, kicks, etc., but I think this works into the theme of the film. As I have seen in the past with the Mexican lucha films, having a story centered on a masked wrestler can dive into the campy cheese quite easily. But Kim's writing and directing keep it out of there. Yes, there are comedic elements, but the story for the most part stays focused on the emergence of this new personality in Dae-ho... a theme that seems common in the Korean cinema I have seen.

Dae-ho begins to do things in the film that he normally would have avoided, but hides behind his mask when he does so. He uses his pro-wrestling identity as a crutch in a way, even though the matches are scripted for the most part, and can't seem to find the right balance between this newfound confidence and his everyday reality.

I felt the editing of the film was a definite strong point. There are some scenes that are just cut very well, particularly the wrestling stunts. Either Song took some nasty bumps in the ring, or Kim did an outstanding job subbing in stunt doubles at just the right times. There is a fantastic scene where Dae-ho as Foul King stabs an opponent in the shoulder with a fork. In a closeup over the opponent's shoulder, the "wound" is very briefly off camera as Dae-ho strikes, then comes back into frame with the fork protruding out. It looked really great and fucking painful!

Dae-ho being a rule breaker to mask his lack of wrestling ability adds to the humor of the film as well. This is often the case in real life as you can see certain wrestlers still today that rely on gimmicks such as weapons, deathmatches, etc. to get over with audiences. He is frustrated in his wrestling life also that rule breakers end up on the losing side of things, but is determined and almost trains himself to be stronger, more agile, more confident, and more skillful. Where Dae-ho is late for his miserable job everyday, he waits outside the gym before the sun even rises to practice his back-drop.

The film at times feels a little overlong. It clocks in at 1:51, and I really think it could have had 10 or 15 minutes shaved off to be a little more brisk. Another issue I mentioned was the line drawn between what is real and what is not in pro-wrestling. While entertaining, there are some scenes of real violence during matches portrayed. It seems that in real-life pro-wrestling, if one performer starts actually hitting his opponent, that the match will break down. It takes loads of cooperation in the ring for two guys to make a match flow and work properly. If both of them aren't on the same page, you can typically tell. If a guy legitimately punches another, I do not think the punched man will retaliate with a body press and a dropkick.

There are some humorous, and some great looking wrestling moments in the film. I like Kim's handling of the mood of the film... the dramatic elements and violent elements are always at least touched at some point with comedy (and not in a negative way)... so the film stays even throughout.

I may like this film more because of my bias in enjoying professional wrestling, but I think it's solid and can be enjoyed by just about anyone into a more physical type of comedy.

It's not perfect, but better than many, many, many wrestling films!

Score: 6.75 / 10

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