They say actors will have that one breakout role that will give them quite the following. This Korean action thriller proves true for martial artist Bruce Khan, who takes the lead.
On the isolated prison located on an island, a mysterious stranger appears and he notices a group of prisoners target a mother and young daughter. He begins a one-man assault on the prisoners, unleashing his martial arts skills. The young daughter, Jin, is grateful for the man, who is revealed to be Yul. The mother, Maly, has some beef with Yul as he was a veteran detective who was responsible for her imprisonment, which led to Jin’s death.
Yul has one intention for arriving on the island. He has learned that Khun, a maniacal criminal mastermind, is leading the charge. Khun is also the man responsible for the murders of Yul’s wife and daughter. As Yul slowly begins to get respect from Maly, Jin, and Maly’s husband’s sworn brother Bau, Khun has learned that Yul has arrived. Undeterred, Khun sends his legion of followers to track down Yul and defeat him at all costs. However, Yul will not be able to singlehandedly defeat Khun’s thugs, and will rely on Maly, Bau, Jin, and others who are willing to help Yul get to Khun.
Since the release of its trailer, fans have raved that they have a new martial arts hero on the rise. The interesting note about this film is that it has been nearly fourteen years since Bruce Khan made an impact on the film scene with his role in The Last Eve. Here, Khan, an expert in taekwondo and hapkido and taught before becoming an actor and stuntman, takes the lead and the fifty-one-year-old makes one heck of an impact in the lead role of the film.
While the story uses the typical theme of revenge as its motive, the film has the interesting notion of perhaps having influences from other films of the martial arts genre. Khan brings the impact from the get-go as Yul, the former detective hellbent on revenge for the death of his family. His opening scene just gives us a taste of what to expect when he fights a band of thugs off while tied up and decked out in a Hannibal Lecter-style mask. It is clear that this is the breakout role Khan needs to get the audience going and he is excellent in the film.
Park Hee-Soon brings viciousness to the role of criminal mastermind Khun, who is seen in flashbacks looking like Choi Min-Sik in Oldboy and in the modern day, looking like an amped up version of Tatsuya Fujiwara’s Makoto Shishio in the Rurouni Kenshin sequels. His henchmen are what you may expect in some of the old school classic martial arts action films, from the psycho beefed up type to a sword-wielding hunchback member. Yoo Jin-Seo’s Maly is quite an interesting character in the fact that she has a respect-hate relationship with Yul. The respect comes with the fact that Yul goes as far as protecting Maly’s daughter Jin, perhaps as a means of redemption for failing to save his own daughter. However, the mere fact that it was Yul who sent Maly to the prison in the first place brings a sense of hatred towards Yul.
The piece de resistance of the film is exactly what fans look forward to and that is the action scenes. They are nothing short of awesome. From Khan’s introductory fight scene on the beach to the finale pitting Khan and Park, the fights are exciting to watch. One of the fight scenes even involves American martial artist T.J Storm. There is also a swordfight between Khan and some of the goons that are mind-blowing in a sense akin to the live-action Rurouni Kenshin films. Granted, there are some levels of undercranking, but that doesn’t take away the fact that these fights are great to watch. The finale with Khan and Park is amazing to watch and adds a dose of mixed martial arts and some nice taekwondo kicks and Western boxing.
Revenger is an exciting start to the martial arts genre to start the new year. Bruce Khan is in top form and despite a typical motive used and some beats of undercranking, the action of the film is what truly stands out.
WFG RATING: B+
Netflix presents a Little Big Pictures/Green Fish Pictures production. Director: Lee Seung-Won. Producer: Yang Jong-Gon. Writer: Bruce Khan. Cinematography: Kim Dae-Sung. Editing: Kim Mi-Yeong.
Cast: Bruce Khan, Park Hee-Soon, Yoon Jin-Seo, Kim In-Kwon, Park Chol-Min, T.J. Storm.