Dong-gun Jang

On a hillside overlooking the beaches of Normandy, American soldiers surround a Korean and a Japanese man wearing Nazi uniforms. This is the second-most intriguing image of Mai-wei, the WWII epic from writer/director Je-gyu Kang. What’s even more fascinating is that the image is drawn directly from real life. How they got there (and into Hitler’s army no less) is a story told while trudging through the freezing mountains of Russia and the hot open plains of Korea. It’s an enormous movie, told through a decade as two competitive marathon runners – Jun-shik Kim (Dong-gun Jang) and Tatsuo Hasegawa (Jo Odagiri) – begin as alienated enemies and become friends through the brittle evolution of battle. Certainly its most striking achievements are the extended, highly-choreographed war scenes that steal the breath right out of your lungs. The visual style is an angrier version of Saving Private Ryan, but instead of beginning with Normandy, Mai-wei ends with it, and instead of having a few huge battles, Mai-wei has a solid half-dozen. Make no mistake; it’s a movie that slams your head into the wall without giving you a helmet.

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Yes, that one shot does make The Warrior’s Way look like a remake of The Birds featuring ninjas, and the rest of it looks like an effects-driven martial arts movie. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, but it honestly feels like the natural evolution from the Wire Fu movies of the past, and here it looks like everything is carefully done. Plus, it’s cowboys vs ninjas. How can that go wrong? Cross your fingers for decent-looking CGI blood (or no blood at all). The film stars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth, Korean star Dong-gun Jang, and Danny Huston. What do you think?

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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