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The Restless
Korean: 중천


Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Special Edition
CJ Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English subtitles
Various Extras

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

Year: 2006
Director: Jo Dong-Oh
Writer: Choi Hee-Dae, Jo Dong-Oh
Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Kim Tae-Hee, Hur Jun-Ho, Park Sang-Wuk, Kim Kwang-Il, Yoo Ha-Joon, Park Jeong-Hak
The Skinny: The action can entertain, and the special effects are certainly quite good. However, everything else is either interesting or unoriginal. Kim Tae-Hee should try to develop a second facial expression.

by Kozo:

Technically gorgeous but artistically lacking, this fantasy-adventure initially charms because it looks incredibly beautiful. But beneath that beauty there just isn't much. Jung Woo-Sung (Musa: The Warrior) stars as Gwak Yi, a Chuyongdae (or "demon hunter") who unexpectedly finds himself in "Mid-Heaven", a pseudo-Buddhist holding zone where deceased souls wait 49 days before their eventual reincarnation. There, Gwak Yi meets So-Hwa (Kim Tae-Hee), a heavenly deity in white billowing robes who's charged with an important task. So-Hwa must deliver the "Holy Stone" to the "Pool of Reflection" in order to prevent the bad guys from gaining power and making a mess of the delicate Earth-Heaven balance. The righteous fellow that he is, Gwak Yi enlists in her cause almost immediately.

But Gwak Yi has other reasons for signing up for bodyguard duty. So-Hwa is a dead ringer (quite literally) for Yon-Hwa, Gwak Yi's former love, who he failed to protect from an untimely death. So-Hwa really is Yon-Hwa, but she's also a "Chuneen", a heavenly deity who lacks the memory of his/her former life, meaning most of the time she has a disturbed look on her face when Gwak Yi is wildly exclaiming, "Yon-Hwa! Yon-Hwa!" Moments like these could actually comprise 40% of the whole film. Complicating matters even further is the fact that the bad guys (led by Hur Jun-Ho) are all former Chuyongdae comrades of Gwak Yi, meaning in order to help his former love, he must send his former friends to their deaths. Again. However, Gwak Yi kicks ass, so Heaven and Earth are safe. Probably.

Those jonesing for shallow SFX-enhanced action may find The Restless engaging. The action is plentiful and frequently enthralling thanks to the top-notch visual effects and fast-moving choreography. Highlights include a nifty forest battle, which takes place both on the ground and in the trees, plus the epic finale, where Gwak Yi takes on 10,000 demons by his lonesome. However, despite the scale of the production, the action feels rather artificial. Some action sequences drag on a bit too long, only to end with an anticlimactic stabbing, and others feel like showy videogame cutscenes designed to impress PS3 fanboys. The story itself is rote fantasy stuff, possessing little originality or inspiration, and relies so much on disconnected exposition that audiences may feel lost.

The acting also falls a few notches short. The manly Jung Woo-Sung, whose ardent gazes broke hearts in both Daisy and A Moment to Remember, continues his streak of romantic heroes here by overdoing the forlorn heartbreak. Physically, he suits the role of Gwak Yi, but the character is so manufactured that his longing gazes start to elicit giggles. The lovely Kim Tae-Hee fares much worse, as she appears to possess only one facial expresion: a deer-in-the-headlights look meant to channel horror, surprise, disgust, fear, wonder, and probably happiness, hunger, and arousal too. The bad guys also overact with thier eyes; there hasn't been this much ocular overacting since the last Riki Takeuchi film festival. Only bad guy Hur Jun-Ho seems to bring any weight or gravity to his part, i.e. he never resorts to bug eyes to convey emotion.

The Restless cost US$10 million to produce, and it looks like they got all of their money on the screen. The effects are rendered convincingly, and the fantasy world has a crisp, lush feel that looks simply wonderful. However, the costume design and art direction don't feel that inspired, with some visual concepts seeming similar to those in the 2001 Tsui Hark fantasy mess The Legend of Zu. Also similar to Zu, The Restless possesses a story and characters that have a hard time connecting with the viewer. There's good and evil, love and hate, life and death, but it all seems perfunctory instead of convincing. Despite its status as a fantasy film, The Restless is unimaginative, and delivers little that is outstanding or memorable. At least with a film like The Legend of Zu - or even Chen Kaige's maligned The Promise - some concepts, moments or sequences managed to resonate or entertain, even if that entertainment was of the unintentional and hilarious variety. Sadly, some Promise-style camp would only have improved The Restless. (Kozo 2007)

 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen