By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter (The Korea Times)
The new action fantasy epic The Restless (Chungchon) is visually enjoyable. State-of-the-art computer technology allows good-looking actors to live in a fantasy world, and there are spectacular action scenes.
But these elements fall flat because of the inadequate development of the story. Viewers will soon realize that the film satisfies their eyes but not their heart.
Directed by Cho Dong-oh, the film tells the story of a couple who are separated by death but meet again in “chungchon,” a place between earth and heaven where the souls of the dead stay for 49 days to erase their memories and prepare for reincarnation.
In the film, So-hwa (played by Kim Tae-hee) and her lover I-gwak (Jung Woo-sung) face a tragic fate. So-hwa is killed by villagers after being falsely accused of being a witch.
I-gwak believes her death is the result of his power to see ghosts, and his talent eventually leads him to join the royal guard of ghost hunters in the late Silla Kingdom.
The guards’ rebellion against a corrupt monarch fails, and all the members are killed except for I-gwak. While on the run, I-gwak is wounded, and he hides in a shabby temple, where he accidentally enters chungchon.
In the semi-heaven, he encounters So-hwa, who has become a goddess, but she doesn’t remember him. He finds out that the dead members of the royal guard are plotting to return to earth to change the rule of the world.
Now his former colleagues appear to be the biggest threat to So-hwa, and I-gwak decides to fight for her.
The storyline alone is enough to attract fantasy fans, and the visually superb rendition of the semi-heaven and action scenes have few technical flaws.
Rivers, mountains and temples are beautifully rendered. The scene in which I-gwak fights against some 30,000 ghost soldiers to save his lover is especially impressive.
But the story is not properly developed.
The long story, which probably needs more than three hours of running time, is cut down to one hour and 40 minutes. The result is that many important parts are missing or summarized in dry dialogue.
It’s hard to sympathize with the couple’s tragic love. It’s not easy to know how desperate the couple are to be with each other or why I-gwak wants to save So-hwa so badly. Or why the men in the guard can’t easily kill I-gwak.
All the explanation the film provides are the characters brief recollections and statements such as “I love her so badly” and “He was like my brother.”
The Restless was promoted as a film for the Christmas season, but watching it is like receiving brilliantly decorated gift box that is disappointingly empty.
Two and a half stars.
doozy: Ouch! This review is harsh. Regardless, I will still watch this movie when it’s available even though it’s probably more Korean Wave material than a solid, good movie. Eh, who cares? I like fluff stuff.