Windstruck (HK - DVD R3)
Gabe submits a review of the Korean versions of Ghost, NYPD Blue, Abbot and Costello, and The Bridges of Madison County, all wrapp...
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Here I am again, and so soon - another day, another foreign rom-com. This time I was privy to a Korean (Southern, naturally) made jumble of romance, laughs, action and drama. Those of who’ve caught recent Korean masterpieces like Old Boy and Save the Green Planet are probably aware of the drastic tonal shifts so prevalent in cinema from the area. Personally, I still haven’t become accustom to them, nor have I fully accepted the mix and match nature of their genre loyalties. Now I submit my review of the Korean versions of Ghost, NYPD Blue, Abbot and Costello and The Bridges of Madison County, all wrapped into one package. It's just as uneven as it sounds.
Windstruck opens with a series of expansive helicopter shots of a big city skyline. On the soundtrack plays a broken English rendition of Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door". The words don't quite come out right, but the voice singing them is legitimately soulful. The camera focuses on a solitary figure standing precariously on the ledge of a particularly high building. She rocks lightly with the wind for a while, and then gracefully allows herself to fall off the edge. The camera follows her in glorious slow motion. Before she hits, we cut back to the beginning, as our male narrator recounts the story of how she got into this particular predicament.
By the end of the film, I'd realized that this opening had encapsulated the entire film – beautiful, romantic, funny, touching and melancholy. All these admirable qualities and yet, I'd seen it all before. Windstruck is all these things, but little more.
The story continues as our hero, Go Myungwoo (played by Volcano High bad boy Jung Hyuk), chases a purse-snatcher down a crowded street. Off duty cop and heroine Yeo Kyungjin (Jun Jihyun) mistakes him for the culprit and chases after him. After wrestling him to the ground and arresting him, she takes him back to headquarters where she realises her mistake. Go is a simple girl's school physics teacher, not a purse-snatcher. He is sent on his way, and Yeo left somewhat unaware of her disgrace. The next day, Go is chaperoning his students on a field trip within the city's seedy red-light district and much to his chagrin, is assigned Yeo as his police escort.
The overzealous Yeo takes the inopportune opportunity to break up an anonymous back alley drug deal. When Go protests, she handcuffs his arm to hers and literally drags him along. After a surprisingly violent shootout, she loses the handcuff key. It seems they'll have to remain cuffed together through the night while they wait for new keys to arrive the next morning. Of course, all this close contact leads them to true love.
I could go on all day recounting Windstruck's surprisingly convoluted plot, but would rather not. The story is full of holes and subplots that don't go anywhere or are forgotten entirely. When Yeo reveals her past to Go, including the fate of her identical twin, one may think it'll have some kind of bearing in the complete film. It only allows for one more deceptively well planned pull of the heartstrings, which works, but feels very underhanded. Almost every emotional cue is deviously planned, and even the few that worked left me feeling somewhat cold and resentful. Unfortunately I have to admit that I was effectively duped into caring about the budding relationship of these characters. I found myself quite happy to be viewing this one alone. I didn't actively shed any tears, but was most likely gawking at the screen like a forlorn schoolgirl nonetheless.
The screwball humour is pretty over the top, as are the performances when humour is called for. The slapstick antics are out of place, and stick out as brightly as the proverbial sore thumb. Sometimes moments of peril are played strictly for laughs, making it difficult to take the more dramatic moments of peril seriously. I made the choice to become emotionally involved with the characters and was left emotionally confused for my troubles. The comedy simply does not fuse with the drama or action.
There is something about Windstruck that makes me think perhaps it was made to be so disjointed on purpose. I get the feeling it actually doubles as some kind of comment on contemporary film. Maybe there is some kind of method behind this madness. Or maybe writer/director Jae-young Kwak was just making it up as he went along. In the end, Windstruck feels more like two entirely separate films, or at best four episodes of an ongoing television series. If it had been a series, I may have found myself curious as to where the next episode was going to take me, but as it stands here the ending is thoroughly unsatisfying (though apparently it alludes to another of the star and director's earlier works). The humour, action and drama all work in their own respects, and the performances are uniformly good where appropriate, but the end product is overlong and was hard for this particular viewer to truly enjoy.
For the most part, Windstruck looks great. The pastel colour pallet is bright and the anamorphic picture is swimming with detail. There are very few compression issues, though our old nemesis the digital artefact does rear his head a few times. Curiously, as the film progresses, grain becomes more apparent. Windstruck's final reel contains some pretty heavy dirt and artefacting, which is surprising considering its age of less than one year.
Windstruck is presented in both Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES Korean surround. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have EX or ES capabilities, so I wasn’t able to enjoy either mix to its full potential. Both mixes work just fine with a standard 5.1 setup however, and are pretty incredible. Music is important to the story and propels both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the final film. With the exception of one superbly lame Korean pop song, the soundtrack is unusually good. The two theme songs of the movie are the aforementioned “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and the Juice Newton classic “Won’t You Stay (Just a Little Bit Longer)”, both heard in various incarnations.
The action sequences are few, but are full of well executed directional effect. Shoot-outs are particularly impressive, more impressive, in fact, than most mainstream region 1 action DVDs. Sound effects, specifically water effects like rain and rushing rivers, are spot on. There is also a 5.1 Dolby Digital Cantonese dubbed track, which sounds more than acceptable.
Windstruck isn’t a short film and the huge audio tracks most likely take up quite a bit of disc space, so the special features on this single disc edition are pretty minimal. There are two over-long trailers, both of which give away too much of the story and downplay the humorous aspects of the film. There is a small photo gallery which contains stills from the film, no behind the scenes or production shots. The only interesting extra for me was the cast and crew bios, which aided me greatly in not having to get up and check IMDB.com to figure out where I had seen actor Jung Hyuk before. It was of course, Volcano High.
Part romance, part screwball comedy, part cop drama, part tragedy, part silly action flick, part supernatural fantasy and part exploitative revenge drama, Windstruck does not fulfil the expectations of any specific genre fan. Its ingenuity is very respectable, but I don’t find myself able to recommend it as anything more than a curiosity.
You can buy this title for $13.99 from Yesasia.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Not suitable for children
Release Date: 14th August 2004
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 6.1 EX Korean, DTS ES 6.1 Korean, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese
Extras: Trailers, Gallery, Cast and Crew Biographies
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kwak Jae Young
Cast: Jeon Ji Hyun, Jang Hyuk
Length: 123 minutes
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