Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Once Upon a Time in High School (2004)

Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (Review)
Yoo Ha/Kwon Sang-woo/2004
Where To Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...incredible blend of heartfelt drama and relatable characters..."

Soft-spoken and shy Hyun-soo (Kwon Sang-woo) transfers to another school notorious for its violent students...

Once Upon a Time in High School is much more than a typical high school drama. Sure, the story has a few clichés, but the bulk of the story and its message are very genuine. The story mainly follows Hyun-soo as he tries to survive in this vicious high school. He befriends Woo-shik (Lee Jung-jin), who is also a bit of a tough guy thug but has a more genuine and mature attitude. Eventually, Hyun-soo fails to develop a relationship with Eun-joo (Han Ga In) because of his shyness, and Woo-shik swoops in. The spirit of Jeet Kune Do kicks in when Hyun-soo decides to set his path – when he decides to have a purpose. The resolution isn't as satisfying as the rest of the film, but it gets the job done.

As you can see, there's a whole lot of story going on in Once Upon A Time In High School. Like I said, the clichés are evident and my description probably makes it seem like a typical teenage drama – but it's not. This film has a lot of heart. The characters are well developed and the on-screen chemistry is genuine. Some character arcs are predictable, but that in no way makes them ineffective. In fact, thanks to the incredible blend of heartfelt drama and relatable characters, I'd argue this film is one very subtly inspirational film. The more I think about it, the more I want to set my own path. It's a film that really moves you.

The acting is great. Kwon Sang-woo is superb as the soft-spoken lead – he plays the introvert very well. Lee Jung-jin is also great, although playing a stereotype. Han Ga In shares the least screen time – her character makes some odd choices, but her performance is spot on and she's a beauty. The soundtrack is fantastic, the original score is also very well implemented. The film is beautifully shot; the Netflix Instant stream is in high definition, which is a big plus, I wish Crying Fist had the same treatment. The English subtitles in this very same stream are great – I didn't notice any flaws. Director Yoo Ha develops a very genuine drama; Yoo Ha also creates some very vicious and realistic fight scenes, which seems to be his specialty.

Overall, Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do is a fantastic drama. It's a blatant coming-of-age drama, but it's also very effective and efficient. The characters are great, the story is moving and inspirational, and it's technically very well made. Don't overlook this film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

No comments:

Post a Comment