It’s time to set sail on the high seas as a war wages between mountain bandits and the titular group in Lee Seok-Hoon’s period action-comedy.
A former imperial vanguard, Jang Sa-Jung exposes a plot of imperial treason and is confronted by one of the royal guards, Han Sang-Jil. When he is able to escape, he does so after injuring the evil guard. He soon becomes a mountain bandit known as “Crazy Tiger”. When his group of bandits hear a story of a whale that has swallowed a royal seal that was supposed to be sent from the Ming in China to Koryo, they decide to find the whale and get their hands on the treasure. However, there is one force that stands in their way.
A band of pirates, led by female captain Yeo-Wol have also heard the story and they intend to get the royal seal as well. When Jang and Yeo-Wol cross paths, only chaos ensues but eventually their rivalry turns into a possible romance while Jang’s former nemesis Sang-Jil returns with intentions to get the royal seal.
From director Lee Seok-Hoon comes this swashbuckling adventure that starts out quite interesting, with what looks like a period military piece. When we are introduced to Jang, he starts out a timid vanguard officer whose loyalty to his country is tested when his superiors plan to cause treason. When his friend, a new father, is murdered by the eventual villain of the film, Jang musters up the courage to face him and injure him. It is when he becomes a bandit leader that we see Jang as the smart-alecky type that shows some of Kim’s talent as an actor. In other words, Jang goes through a three-step process from shy to courageous to smart-aleck.
On the other hand, when we are introduced to Yeo-Wol, from the outright, she is seen kicking tail aboard a boat against a band of goons and while she shows a bit of compassion, she is forced to learn from her captain that she must be ruthless. However, an exposed plot discovered by a seasick pirate, exposes the captain’s ulterior motives and Yeo-Wol finally stands up to him and soon becomes the captain herself.
Despite the main plot of hunting down the whale who has swallowed the royal seal, the major subplot of the chaotic rivalry turned relationship between Jang and Yeo-Wol seems to overthrow the main plot at times. In one of the funniest scenes of the film, a chase scene has Yeo-Wol sliding down the sides of buildings like a water slide while Jang and his fellow bandit are going by rickshaw. When Yeo-Wol catches up to Jang, they crash through a fence in a hysterical slow motion scene, Jang and Yeo-Wol look at a bird in the air that results in the bird literally fainting. More comic relief comes in the form of the Yoo Hae-Jin’s Cheol-Bong, who eventually joins the bandits and is telling the story of the whale and attempting to give lessons on how to swim in the ocean.
The action is quite a nice treat in the film. While there are no real spectacular fights, they action comes sporadically and works well with the film. Those who love the swashbuckler genre will enjoy the action here. Jang and Yeo-Wol do the good ol’ swinging on the ropes to kick their adversaries with both using some nice swordwork. In Yeo-Wol’s pivotal scene where she exposes her captain’s betrayal, she uses a sword with a flapping-style blade, a weapon usually seen in Chinese martial arts films and used in wushu.
The Pirates is a fun swashbuckling action-comedy that may not have some spectacular fights, but they are fun nonetheless. In addition, the cast do a great job in their roles, making this a worthy rental with optional buy.
WFG RATING: B
A Harimao Pictures production. Director: Lee Seok-Hoon. Producer: Kang Min-Gyu. Writer: Cheon Seong-Il. Cinematography: Kim Young-Ho. Editing: Lee Jin.
Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Son Ye-Jin, Yoo Hae-Jin, Lee Kyeong-Yeong, Kim Tae-Woo, Park Chul-Min, Kim Won-Hae, Jo Dal-Hwan, Oh Dal-Su.