I was amazed by the sheer epic scope of Korean writer-director Dong-Hoon Choi’s 2006 feature, Tazza: The High Rollers, when I covered its DVD release in September of last year. More recently, upon the Blu-ray release of his 2012 picture, The Thieves, I declared that the film “may just be perfect,” going to quite some lengths to make my case. And thus, with half of Choi’s filmography displayed proudly in my DVD/Blu-ray library, I eagerly awaited Shout! Factory’s April 9 release of his third film, Woochi (2009). Unfortunately, while it is every bit the ambitious effort the aforementioned pictures were, and an impressively action-packed romp through the ages at that, Woochi could hardly be considered in the same league as Tazza and The Thieves.
The film follows Tao master, wizard, and mischief-maker Jun Woochi, who inadvertently runs afoul of a band of evil goblins in 1509 only to find himself trapped in a drawing for 500 years and released in modern day Korea to battle the goblins once more. What’s interesting about the film’s structure is that we actually spend some 45 minutes in 1509 before following the characters in to the present day. In that, Woochi proves to be every bit as epic as Tazza, and its physics-defying, magic-infused battles against man-sized, animal-headed beasties make it almost every bit as visually exciting in its action as The Thieves.
That said, the narrative is not without its faults, chief among them that Woochi, as a mischievous wizard, doesn’t fill his role as protagonist very well. Were you to view this as more of an ensemble piece, it would appear to be a fairly well-crafted narrative weaving together multiple storylines in such a way that the seven major players’ motivations drive the film toward a high stakes climax. But you can’t really get away from the fact that this is supposed to be Woochi’s movie– his name is the title after all– and he doesn’t seem to care.
This is not to say, however, that the film does not have plenty to offer anyway. The action set pieces are quite clever and highlighted by some rather exciting choreography by The Good, The Bad and the Weird stunt choreographer, Doo-Hong Jung. The special effects, especially where the goblins are concerned, are rather impressive. And what’s more, the terrific Yun-seok Kim, star of Tazza and The Thieves as well as the phenomenal 2008 film, The Chaser, plays the film’s antagonist.
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is predictably stunning, given that the film is only four years old, and the film is supplemented on this and the DVD release by a host of special features, including making-of and production featurettes, deleted scenes, and a look at the film’s CGI. The release includes both English and Korean soundtracks with optional English subtitles. Unfortunately, and this is a major drawback for me, the subtitles here are in fact dubtitles, meaning that they reflect the dialogue as spoken in the English dub rather than a straight translation of the Korean dialogue.