Big Match (2014)

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From the director of Bloody Tie comes a film that can be described as a Korean version of the WWE film 12 Rounds but switch a cop for a mixed martial arts champion and adding a twist that is vital to the story.

Choi Ik-Ho is a former professional soccer player whose antics have destroyed his career in that sport. However, he decides to use his skills in the world of mixed martial arts and under the tutelage of his older brother Young-Ho, Ik-Ho, known as the “Zombie”, becomes a well-known fighter in the UFC. He becomes the perfect person for Ace, an insane mastermind who has created a new game that would have Ik-Ho use his skills.

When Young-Ho disappears, Ik-Ho is suspected for the possibility of murder and is held in a jail cell. From that moment, Ik-Ho’s life is seriously about to change as he gets his first transmission from Ace, who has admitted he has kidnapped Young-Ho in order for the MMA champ to play his game, in which the entire city is now the gameboard and Young-Ho must go through a series of challenges, beginning with busting out of the police station, in order to rescue his brother. Will Ik-Ho be able to complete the challenges and rescue his brother? Or will Ace prove himself to be the ultimate “game master”?

Director Choi Ho is quite an interesting director. His style of filmmaking in terms of taking his time can be said to reminiscent of perhaps art house auteur Wong Kar-Wai. However, Choi brings a more brutal style of action and drama to his films when it is called for. For this, his fifth film, Choi brings a bit of comedy into the serious tone of the titular “big match” where our MMA champion goes through a series of challenges to save his brother. This may bring to mind the 2009 thriller 12 Rounds, in which John Cena’s cop had to complete a series of twelve challenges to rescue his wife.

Lee Jung-Jae really does a great job as our hero, showing himself as a very cocky fighter who thrives on the attention. It is that attention that makes him the perfect target for Ace, our lethal “game master”, played in such a comical fashion at times by Shin Ha-Kyun. As Ace, it is funny to see Shin thrive on the glory when he announces the challenges towards the rich bidders who must decide and bet if our hero will pass or fail the challenges.

Interestingly enough, K-Pop icon BoA makes her film debut as a woman who proves to be vital to this very important game that can determine the fate of Choi Young-Ho. A flaw comes in the form of the constantly nagging Mrs. Choi, Young-Ho’s wife, played by Ra Mi-Ran. She just comes off as annoying throughout the film with her constant nagging and screaming. While Shin Ha-Kyun plays a comical-style villain, Kim Eui-Sung’s detective brings comic relief in exactly a “bumbling detective” way.

The action scenes are nicely done by the team of Kim Gil-Dong, Kim Tae-Hwan-I, and Seo Wang-Seok. Lee Jung-Jae trained hard in mixed martial arts for his role and while his first two major action scenes are more of an evading type, one scene really stands out. As part of the game, he is forced into a maze of hallways and takes on a band of gangsters. This is where we see Jung-Jae at some of his best, using all sorts of MMA-style maneuvers from flying knee strikes to kicks to grappling. Jung-Jae even gets into a climactic bout with a supposed rival at the UFC organization as part of the game, played by Russian powerhouse actor and martial artist Vlad Demin.

The bottom line is that Big Match is definitely a fun action film with comic overtones. Lee Jung-Jae and Shin Ha-Kyun give wonderful performances as the rivals while the action scenes are nicely done. Definitely one to check out for fans of Korean action cinema.

WFG RATING: B

Opus Pictures presents a BK Films production. Director: Choi Ho. Producer: Shin Bo-Kyung. Writer: Roy Kim. Cinematography: Choi Min-Ho and Kim Sung-Chul. Editing: Shin Min-Kyung.

Cast: Lee Jung-Jae, Shin Ha-Kyun, Lee Sung-Min, BoA, Kim Eui-Sung, Park Doo-Sik, Ra Mi-Ran, Son Ho-Joon, Vlad Demin.

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