Woochi: The Demon Hunter [Blu-Ray] Choi Dong-hoon

Woochi: The Demon Hunter [Blu-Ray] Choi Dong-hoon
7
Just over three years after Choi Dong-hoon's whimsical fantasy epic became his third commercial smash in a row in South Korea, North American audiences can finally get a taste of the absurdly entertaining Woochi. Loosely based on a Korean folktale concerning the origins of discord between man and beast, this effects-driven romp incorporates the graceful supernatural combat style of Wuxia films with the zany, live-action Looney Tunes slapstick of Kung Fu Hustle and a few dollops of fish-out-of-water comedy doubling as light social commentary. Initially, the story is framed as a tale being related to a nurse by a homeless man who claims to be an immortal Taoist god. Using this conceit, the man explains the part Jeon Woochi — the cocky, reckless disciple of a great Tao master — played in the struggle to restore order after the safety of a magical flute with the power to control demons was compromised. The first half of this lengthy film is relentlessly energetic, seamlessly blending impressive special effects with opulent art design as the young trickster seeks fame, power and adventure, only to be drawn into a deadly conflict between the forces of heaven and hell. Thanks in no small part to Kang Dong-won's (Secret Reunion) charismatic performance in the titular role, the movie largely maintains its momentum when the story picks up in modern-day Seoul, sagging only briefly near the end of the second act. When the demons (who hide in human form and don't even realize what they are until drawn out) re-emerge, three retired Taoist gods call upon the wrongfully (and magically) imprisoned Woochi and his faithful, shape-shifting man-horse-dog, Chorangyi (Yoo Hae-jin), to capture the evil beasts, which manifest as a hulking bunny and rat warriors. The dense mythology is a bit tough to keep straight, at times, but Woochi's cynical observations about modern society ("Merchants are cunning people who'd deceive their own parents to turn a profit and you're saying they feed the people?"), coupled with a few pointed jabs at celebrity worship and a nearly constant mix of grandiose action and broad humour prevent little things like convoluted terminology from bogging down the picture. Thematically, the movie is basically about maturing enough to leave amateurish crutches behind in order to realize your full potential, which is a lesson Choi (The Thieves) hasn't taken to heart, judging by his continued lack of interest in investing deeper meaning in his work. In the interview segment of the robust special features, the writer/director makes no bones about his intentions: "I just wanted it to be entertaining and exciting." With those modest but deceptively difficult to achieve ambitions in mind, Woochi: The Demon Hunter is a success. The rest of the bonus content is a combination of typical promo features, a trailer, additional interview footage, deleted scenes — a greed parable involving a pizza boy that doesn't really fit with the greater story — raw behind-the-scenes footage and a wealth of production featurettes primarily focused on the smoothly realized visual effects work. (Shout! Factory)