Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Fighter in the Wind (2004)

Fighter in the Wind (Review)
Yang Yun-ho/Yang Dong-geun/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"If you love stories of triumph and the philosophy of martial arts, I think you'll enjoy this one."

The story of Choi Bae-dal (Yang Dong-geun), who traveled to Japan during World War 2 to become a fighter pilot but found himself fighting for justice and honor instead.

Fighter in the Wind is a fictionalized account of karateka Masutatsu Oyama's life. The film begins with Bae-dal traveling to Japan to become a fighter pilot. To his dismay, not all was what it seemed and he finds himself imprisoned by the end of World War 2. While their base is being bombed, Bae-dal is freed by Kato (Masaya Kato), a high-ranking soldier of the Japanese army – not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he doesn't want to taint the Japanese blood with a Korean's blood. In a confrontation with Kato, Bae-dal is left injured and humiliated. Most of the film takes place in post-war Japan, though, where, according to the film, most Japanese men were part of the Yakuza or purely evil while all US soldiers were corrupt rapists. Anyway, Bae-dal continues to run into trouble, so he dedicates his life to becoming the greatest fighter in order to protect what he cares about. Toss in a training montage, a few fights, some conflict between fighting and love, then you've got yourself the rest of the movie. The last fight was great. The actual ending was... interesting, to say the least.

Fighter in the Wind is a very good movie. Although it followed a clich̩ formula, I was thoroughly interested during the first half. The film develops Bae-dal well and it presents the audience with some interesting philosophy. The second half of the film is more action-oriented. The action scenes were also great. This isn't your ultra-fast modern karate film. No, this film is a bit more grounded, focusing on technique and ferocity. However, I did feel the film lost some of its momentum towards the end. It started to feel less about Bae-dal and more about a Rocky-esque triumph story. It's not bad per se, but it does lose some of its personality in the process. I recognized this shift in mood during the obligatory training sequence. After this music video, Bae-dal returns as this unstoppable force. You'd think he was training with Drago and the Soviet Union. It also felt a bit disjointed Рit's easy to lose track of time.

Yang Dong-geun is a great leading man. He's not very talkative, but he performs well through his facial expressions and general mannerisms. Masaya Kato, Aya Hirayama, and Jung Doo-hung also offer great supporting performances. The supporting cast was overall very good. The film is shot well and the music is good. The latter feels slightly ill-fitted at times, but it's not bad. The set and costume design were also good. I found some issues with the story, but I often found myself immersed in the post-war world it developed. The film is written and directed by Yang Yun-ho. Fighter in the Wind is a fine action film. I think the writing and the direction were very good. There are a few issues here and there, particularly with the disjointed and often lopsided storytelling, but it ultimately left a strong impression.

Overall, Fighter in the Wind is a very good movie. It's a very interesting and entertaining film. There are some issues with the storytelling and the writing, but it ultimately towers over its problems to deliver a memorable experience. If you love stories of triumph and the philosophy of martial arts, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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