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Ssaum-ui gisul – Art of fighting (2006)

From IMDB:

A fighting movie from Korea, not the first one nor the last, but one which didn’t wish to be entwined within a fluffy romance angle or a heavily calculated action caper. A tightly cast film about a young student name Byung Tae (Hyun-kyoon Lee) facing hard times in a school where he is mercilessly bullied by the fellow students.

Having faced problems in the past, Byung Tae’s father, a policeman, has brought him down to a tech school, where the closest thing to the “project-based learning” is the excruciating, army-like push up discipline conducted by the class instructor. Not the best environment for the already angst ridden troublemakers, but a learning experience nonetheless. Mostly silent, soft spoken Byung Tae, loosely resembling the much subtler character Hyun-kyoon so greatly portrayed in 3-Iron, is tired of being on the losing end of every fight so he frantically looks for a martial arts teacher. Bring forth Pan Su, played by the always engaging Yun-shik Baek (the President’s Last Bang and Save the Green Planet), who isn’t the biggest of guys, but a man of few words and a walk-through the walls type of attitude. Byung wastes no time and asks Pan Su to become his master to which Su replied that Byung better have a wealthy family to pay off the victims’ hospital bills, along with the usual jazz on how martial arts aren’t meant to serve purely as a fighting weapon but as a mind temple. Still this didn’t stop Pan Su from teaching Byung Tae the deadly skill of coin throwing and a head-butting technique which he probably should have figured out himself after all the collar nagging he received in school.

All of this is presented in a comical manner mixed with a few dramatic sequences, which I guess a film dealing with this subject matter couldn’t have fully avoided, although I hoped it would. Nothing too sentimental though, but the transition from one to another still felt rather unorthodox, if not a bit irregular and disarming. Regardless, don’t expect gravity defying action and wacky humor, as the poster might have suggested. Also nothing groundbreaking in regards to the teacher/student relationship which has been done numerous times and various ways. But some good laughs along with some more realistically choreographed fight scenes and no unnecessary subplots, made watching this film an effortless and an enjoyable experience. The ending reassured me that this film’s intent wasn’t to promote the art of tear-jerking and sadness, but instead it settled on delivering a rather benevolent message that all you need is a rule-breaking martial artist with a criminal past to teach you how to disregard pain and unleash a proverbial beating that would paint happy faces on bullied boys all over the world.

What can I really say about this movie? There doesn’t seem to be a ton after this accurate and well written review I found on IMDB. It covers the plot outline far better than I ever could with a foreign film.

The movie was well written and acted and gave a fresh feel to the Karate Kiddish theme of the movie. A very adult language oriented film, you really feel that you wish that this poor kid would just stop getting the crap beat out of him on almost a daily basis and this continues right up until the end with the bullies apparently not wanting to ever learn their lesson. You keep hoping that the main character will ever come out of his shell and just start to take up for himself.

The main character doesn’t learn his fighting skills through any real training though as much as just being vocally motivated to open himself up and find ways to take care of himself through a series of small conversations that he has with his instructor. You begin to wonder after a while if this poor kid will ever be able to fend for himself from learning via such an odd technique. Learning to step up to the plate for himself never seems to be the right motivator to move our young hero in the right direction as he continues to take one terrible bloody beating after another throughout the movie.

If you are looking for a no nonsense fighting movie that lends itself to very real choreographed fighting scenes and have an open mind then this flick is a good fit. It’s a fresh look at dealing with life from the school of hard knocks that will open the eyes to many that will watch it and it has just the right amount of comic relief to give the audience a break when it is sorely needed.

Though not quite the caliber of some of the films that we have been seeing come out of China in the fighting genre. I don’t really think that this film is meant to hit on the same note as it’s foreign competitors have been pushing out for quite some time now and it was really nice to see how a different culture deals with these issues.

I don’t know if you will be able to find this movie without going through various movie forums that are out there as I stumbled upon this gem completely by accident and can’t seem to find the link to the forum at the time of this writing. This may also be the only way to enjoy the film with English subs and a fan put forth a lot of effort to make it possible. Still if you can find it give it a watch it’s definitely worth the time.

Update:

I found the movie for sale at the following link:

http://www.seoulselection.com/shopping_dvd_view.html?pid=1010

I give this movie 3.5/5 stars.

Warning some spoilers! It was the only preview type video I could find though so I apologize in advance.