Sunday, March 15, 2015

From South Korea: action, violence and the game of GO in Jo Bum-gu's twisty THE DIVINE MOVE

Making its DVD/Blu-ray debut (it looks quite good in the latter format), THE DIVINE MOVE, from South Korean filmmaker Jo Bum-gu (aka Cho Beom-gu on the IMDB) turns out to be a revenge thriller incorporating everything from violent action to low-end comedy, romance and especially gaming (both meanings: game-playing and conning), with the game of GO played throughout.

Never fear: If you have not played GO (as I have not), you can still follow the movie easily, and there is much to enjoy in the visual flair with which the director, shown at left, informs his film -- along with the screenplay from Yu Sung-hyub, his first, which is full of fun, fighting and family matters, in addition to chapter headings that appear to be taken from The Art of War -- or maybe The Art of GO. Whichever, the film begins with a Go championship, soon after which, the loser, a young man with a no-good older brother who seem to be constantly getting into jams, is tricked into helping his brother cheat to win an important playoff. Unfortunately, the other player is also cheating. (In this movie, just about every game is played by four people: the two obvious players and two more hidden from view who can electronically give their legal counterparts advice.)

The outcome of all this sends out hero to prison, where he manages to learn martial arts, as well as practicing his gaming. When he finally gets out, our nerdy, puny guy has turned into a ripped and sexy action hero played by Jung Woo-sung (standing, above, whom you may remember from The Good, the Bad, the Weird).

The mostly low-level comedy is provided by a character (Kim In-kwon, center, above) who earlier crapped out on older brother and has a motor mouth most often in use.

Romance comes via a good-looking young woman (Lee Si-young, at right), in hock to the film's major bad guy (a fine and frightening Lee Beom-sum, below, left). Along the way, our hero also recruits a couple of other characters necessary to his plans -- a blind but very talented GO player, and another fellow missing a hand who nonetheless comports himself quite well in the construction and fighting modes.

At times the film resembles an Asian version of either the older or newer Ocean's 11, what with the various crew members chosen for their particular skill and smarts.

The movie even introduces a poor, abused child (below), evidently kidnapped into gaming slavery due to her great skill at GO. But this is not a social protest movie. It ticks off various situations in passing but does nothing more with each of them than what any movie devoted to action and thrills would manage.

Mr. Jo keeps that action alternating nicely with the violence, comedy, gaming and romance, and the result is a fine and frisky couple of hours featuring a number of nice set pieces -- such as the game and fight that take place in a warehouse, below, in which the temperature keeps plummeting and escape seems unlikely.

The Divine Move, from CJ Entertainment and running just under two hours, hits the streets on DVD and Blu-ray this coming Tuesday, March 17 -- for sale and/or rental.

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