Fighter in the Wind (2008) Review
Director: Yang Yun-ho
Starring: Yang Dong-geun (Choi Bae-dal/Masutatsu Oyama), Masaya Kato (Kato), Aya Hirayama (Yoko), Jung Tae-woo (Chun-bae), Jung Dae-hong (Bum-soo)
This movie is a loose retelling of the life of Choi Bae-dal, a real life Korean immigrant to Japan and founder of Kyokushen Karate. Unfortunately, I was watching this on Amazon and the video quality seemed to be off. Also, the English subtitles didn’t line up properly and had many lines written on the screen before or after they were said; however, that did not completely deter my enjoyment--but more on that later.
First, lets give a brief overview of the story. It begins when a young Taekwondo practictioner named Choi Bae-dal travelling to Japan to become a fighter pilot during World War II. Only, once he gets there, he discovers that the Japanese only wanted to recruit Koreans to be human shields. After the war, things don’t get any better. He runs a foul of the local Yakuza who humilitate him in front of a large group of people. Though this leads to him meeting his friend Bum-soo, who helps teach Bae-dal how to be a better martial artist. Meanwhile, Bae-dal rescues local geisha Yoko from some U.S. Army men. However when Bum-soo is killed by the Yakuza, he disappears into the mountains to focus on his martial arts (in a training montage, accompanied by the music of Danish metal band Epica). Once he’s done, he returns down the mountain and challenges the top Karate masters in all of Japan defeating them all and becoming a hero to the young.
Overall, I felt this movie had a strong plot and surprisingly the most convincing part was the romance with Yoko. This, no doubt, is partially caused by the acting of the two leads. Hirayama, in particular, showed a tremendous ability to act with facial expressions alone, especially when it came to the use of her eyes. Beyond this, the overall plot was a good one--albeit not perfect. Basically, I feel the movie could have benefitted from another hour added to its runtime. This is because I felt the movie tended to jump from act to act a lot faster than it should, which could be a bit confusing. Also, that final scene should have been cut from the western release because it seems stupid if you don’t know the back story behind it.
Anyway, now lets discuss the reason why most will want to see the movie. I felt that the fight scenes were done for the most part. The choreography was really good, but I didn’t feel that were shot really well. There were way too many close-ups, and, in one case, the camera didn’t seem to be in focus. This last part was a bit disorienting. But do I think this movie is worth watching. Yes, if you’re into the genre. Though, I don’t think it’s likely to bring the genre any new fans.