Friday, May 22, 2015

Film Review: The Divine Move (2014)

The Divine Move (Review)
Jo Bum-gu/Jung Woo-sung/2014
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime
"...brutal fistfights, vicious knife play, violent bone snapping and even some bloody torture."

When he's framed and imprisoned for murder by a gambling syndicate, professional Go player Tae-seok (Jung Woo-sung) seeks vengeance...

The Divine Move follows Tae-seok as he trains for his vengeance. In prison, he teams up with a mob boss and begins training, particularly his fighting and pain endurance. When he emerges from prison, Tae-seok gathers a team of specialists to help him, including Kkong-soo "Cheater" (Kim In-kwon) and Joo-nim "Drinking Lord" (Ahn Sung-ki). Together, the team seeks to crush Sal-soo "Killer" (Lee Beom-soo) and his violent crime syndicate. Although a vengeance film at its heart, the story really plays out more like a typical heist film — a very violent heist film. It leads to a bloody climax and decent ending. I didn't like the backtracking, though, it felt like a cop-out from its original intentions.

The Divine Move is a great action-noir film. Like I said, this isn't really your typical revenge film. The Divine Move focuses more on the scheming than it does the vengeance. So, you have familiar characters like Kkong-soo, who uses his slithering ways to gain intel; this character also injects some very familiar humor into the film. I think the planning-and-execution aspects of the film were what made this feel like a heist movie. Only after these familiar "heist" scenes does the film actually feel like a revenge thriller. Personally, I liked this approach. It uses the familiarity to create something different for the genre, which I found surprising. I did have an issue with some unanswered questions, though — some character actions are questionable and the timeline feels segmented. Also, there are a few plot contrivances here and there, a few clichés, and the ending offers some disappointments. Otherwise, I genuinely enjoyed this narrative.

Aside from an interesting plot, The Divine Move also delivers plenty of action. This, again, is where the film differentiates itself. You'd guess a film with heist elements and humor would be fairly tamed, right? Wrong. The Divine Move surprised me with its level of violence. There are brutal fistfights, vicious knife play, violent bone snapping and even some bloody torture. I wouldn't say it's the most violent film I've ever watched, but, considering the humorous mood it often used, it was certainly surprising. Regardless, the action scenes were thrilling and exciting. Although not Fist of Legend-tier, the fistfight choreography was strong and vicious. I even cringed a few times. Anyway, the balance between drama, humor, and action was great.

Jung Woo-sung leads this cast with another charismatic performance. Woo-sung plays the "cool" role well. Kim In-kwon plays his quirky and silly character well, too. Lee Beom-soo shined as the villain. Although none of the roles were particularly demanding, I enjoyed the entire cast. The film looks great, too. The lighting in particular was very vibrant — I loved the use of color, it really gave it that noir-style. The music is what you'd expect from the genre, it blended well with the film. Director Jo Bum-gu crafts a bloody and exciting action film through great action scenes, quirky humor, and a balanced pace. Although it uses familiar elements, the direction for the story was very interesting. There are some issues in the story, such as the cop-out ending and the plot contrivances, but it is ultimately an entertaining flick.

Overall, The Divine Move is a very good film. The narrative is certainly different from other vengeance films, but it ultimately works. There are a few plot contrivances and clichés, but they really didn't bother me — maybe a little, but not enough to really take me out of the experience. The actual ending, on the other hand, felt like a copout. Aside from the interesting story, you'll get plenty of bloody action from this film. If you're looking for an action film a little different from usual, this is for you.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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