In 2003, Lee Joon-ik directed "Once Upon a Time in a Battlefield" (also known as "Hwangsanbul") a period comedy set in 7th Century Korea that depicted the famous Battle of Hwangsanbeo. Now in 2011, its successor "Battlefield Heroes" has staked its claim as one of the most successful films of the year. Lee Joon-ik ("Blades of Blood", "The King and the Clown") makes good use of some big acting talent in producing an over-the-top period comedy that scored big with the Korean public.
The film is set in what is known as the "period of three kingdoms" where the Korean states of Gorguryeo, Silla, and Baekje are all battling for power, while the Chinese Tang dynasty also has its eye on controlling the Korean peninsula. The Silla forces, led by general Kim Yoo-sin (Jung Jin-young), have an alliance with the invading Chinese forces and agree to support them in their quest for victory over the stubborn and fortified Gorguryeo kingdom. However Kim Yoo-sin has the greater aim of uniting Korea and attempts to use Tang's military campaign to his advantage.
While the political powerhouse are playing their game, the everyday citizens are forcefully drafted service men, stuck in the middle as pawns of their respected kingdoms. "Thingy" (played by Lee Moon-shik who also starred in "Hwangsanbul") is one such unlucky soul who leaves his beloved mother kicking and screaming to join the Silla forces. Having been the sole survivor of a previous battle, he now imparts knowledge on those who care to listen to his hilarious methods of staying alive in the heat of a battle. His performance really stands out in the film and his presence on screen is almost enough to induce a chuckle all by itself.
"Battlefield Heroes" was a fun ride that never took itself seriously. From Trojan rice bowls to catapulted livestock, the film is infested with laughs as the battle between powers plays out. From the get-go the film establishes itself well and the great cast of characters breath life into every beat of the tale. However, the last 40 minutes of the film lost a little of its charm and the laughs seemed to become a little further apart. The film's conclusion also left me wanting more as everything came to a blunt finish and the humour, by this time, felt forced. "Battlefield Heroes" was a good ride that started strong but sizzled out from its comedic highs.
-Christopher James Wheeler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Available on DVD from YesAsia
"[HanCinema's Film Review] Battlefield Heroes"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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