Arahan (2004)
Directed by Seung-wan Ryoo

Artistic Value: * * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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After Sang-hwan (Seung-beom Ryu), an inept but honest policeman, is inadvertently beaten up by Eui-jin (So-yi Yoon), a beautiful young woman with supernatural martial arts skills, she takes him back to the house she shares with her father and four other older persons, all of whom have abilities even greater than her own. They recognize Sang-hwan's innate talent and begin to train him, but, shortly thereafter, a powerful and villainous martial artist who has been entombed since the middle ages is unearthed and attacks these persons, hoping to gain control over the power to reshape the world.

Seung-wan Ryoo's Arahan is an hilarious, exciting, and constantly entertaining film. It may not be a work of art, but it is a pleasure to watch.


The story the director tells is pretty conventional. For much of the movie, he presents the viewer with depictions of the hero's training and shows how that young man, who begins the film as an incompetent and bullied weakling, is transformed, by its end, into the deadliest warrior in the world. Most of the remainder of the narrative is concerned with the protagonists' fight against their revivified enemy, who, while occasionally amusing, is, it has to be admitted, a pretty predictable villain. In fact, he does little more than provide excuses for numerous fights and for a little drama when he threatens Eui-jin's father's life.


Fortunately, the plethora of action sequences with which the film is punctuated, and which are the reason why the moviegoer will enjoy Arahan, are almost invariably well choreographed and thrilling. Although there are a couple of reasonably realistic fights, more often than not, the director presents his characters performing impossible magical stunts. At one point or another, he shows them sending waves of devastating force from their hands, hurtling through the air with incredible acrobatic leaps, distorting time and space, leaping from the top of one skyscraper to the next, or jumping from the roof of such a building to the street below. There is not a single routine in the film that is not entertaining. A few do lift elements that the viewer may have seen in other movies, but their being so borrowed never detracts from their appeal.

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Lastly, I should note that while none of the actors display any noteworthy dramatic skills, most are so delightfully hammy that they do add to the film's charm. Seung-beom Ryu, with his endless goofy facial expressions and incessant whining, can, however, get a little grating at times, and he is in almost every scene. Fortunately, he is often paired with So-yi Yoon who is just so sexy that the viewer will probably be watching her so intently that he forgets about how annoying her co-star is.


Arahan really is a fun movie. I will hardly claim that it is a great film, but it is sure to keep the viewer entertained throughout its duration.

Review by Keith Allen

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