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  Bichunmoo  
  |     review    |     availability     |  
  AKA: Dance with Sword  
  AKA: Flying Warriors  
  Year: 2000  
  Director: Kim Young-Jun  
  Producer: Jung Tae-Won  
  Action: Ma Yuk-Sing  
  Cast: Shin Hyun-June, Kim Hee-Sun, Jang Dong-Jik, Chung Jin-Young, Kim Hak-Chu, Ki Joo-Bong
 
The Skinny: Drop The Count of Monte Cristo into the wuxia genre and add a little Shakespearean tragedy, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this stylish, big-budget swordplay flick from Korea.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Bichunmoo takes us back to the days of yore (14th Century China to be exact) to tell the story of star-crossed lovers Jinha (Shin Hyun-Jun) and Sullie (Kim Hee-Sun). In a setup similar to The Bride with White Hair, the young Jinha befriends Sullie after saving her from a vicious wolf attack. The pair's close friendship carries on to adulthood, but becomes threatened by the death of Sullie's mother. This tragic event draws out her long-lost father, the Mongol general Taruga (Kim Hak-Chu). To the young couple's dismay, Sullie's father objects to the match and takes her away, preferring the wealthy Lord Namgung Junkwang (Chung Jin-Young) as a suitor instead.
     Though thought to be of low birth, Jinha soon discovers that he is the last surviving descendant of the House of Yu. And as fate would have it, Jinha also learns that Taruga is the culprit who murdered his parents, all because he coveted the family's treasured "Bichun Secret Arts Manual." Much like the Swordsman trilogy's Sacred Scroll (minus the castration of course!), the manual provides the keys to true martial arts supremacy.
     But at this point, Jinha desires only Sullie, and after besting her brother in combat, he runs away with his beloved. Following a romantic interlude in a cave, the pair is eventually tracked down by General Toruga and his men. Outnumbered and outmatched, Jinha receives a chestful of arrows from the Mongul troops, takes a Crouching Tiger-esque half gainer off a cliff, and falls to his apparent demise. Soon after, Sullie hastily marries Junkhwang, bearing him a son. But to everyone's shock (except the viewer's), Jinha survives the fall, reemerging years later as the enigmatic assassin Jahalang. With his faithful band of shadowy assassins, Jinha/Jahalang returns for bloody retribution, leaving ample amounts of corpses in his wake.
     With over an hour left of film, the movie raises a number of questions. Will Jinha reunite with the now-married Sullie? Can her love quench his thirst for vengeance? And what about Sullie's awfully familiar-looking kid? The answers may not be hard for most audiences to fathom, but Bichunmoo can at least be applauded for delivering them in a highly entertaining way.
     Still, the movie is not without its problems. For starters, the movie is pretty darn predictable, with every "twist" apparent from the start. And furthermore, the lack of a significant baddie at story's end really takes away from the finale (Jinha and company mow down just about every potential "arch-villain" character before the film's climax).
     But to its credit, the film is bolstered by some impressive cinematography, lots of unobtrusive CGI wizardry, and excellent performances from its cast. For fans of Hong Kong cinema, the martial arts sequences are strongly reminiscent of the wuxia wirework that viewers have come to love from the early 1990s Hong Kong flicks of Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung. The homage may seem like straight-up stealing to some, but for others the sight will be welcome nostalgia. And in comparison to even the best of those genre flicks, Bichunmoo is executed in a considerably more polished manner.
     Further praise should go to the wardrobe department. Though I cannot vouch for its adherence to historical authenticity, the costume design is truly topnotch. From the black-garbed assassins to the beautiful ladies, the stylish outfits of all the characters are so visually compelling that you don't want to look away (Compare this film to the similarly-themed, but horribly costumed HK film The Assassin, and tell me which you'd rather watch). Ultimately though, Bichunmoo succeeds as a satisfying martial arts romance that made this reviewer misty-eyed for days gone by. Remember when Hong Kong regularly put out films like this? Apparently, Bichunmoo's filmmakers did, and crafted a film that's just as good, if not better. (Calvin McMillin, 2002)
 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Deltamac
Full-Screen
DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1
Korean, Cantonese, and Mandarin Language Tracks
English and Chinese Subtitles
"Making of" Featurette, Music Videos, Trailer
 
DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Spectrum DVD
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1
Korean Language Track
English Subtitles
Audio Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, "Making of" Featurette
Original Film Soundtrack, Music Video, Trailer
   
image courtesy of krmdb.com
 
   
 
 
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