Woochi Demon Slayer Blu-ray

Tuesday, 26 April 2011 00:00

“Woochi” is a special effects-laden fantasy movie from South Korea. The titular character is a precocious young wizard (Don-won Kang), despised by his elders but possessing an annoying habit of doing the right thing despite his enormous ego. In the midst of a timeless battle between evil, shape-shifting goblins and righteous gods and mages, our hero is framed for the murder of his Master and frozen in a painting for 500 years.

Moving forward five centuries to the present day, three minor gods reluctantly release Woochi and his loyal familiar Chorangyi to help them recover a magical, game-changing pipe that - in the wrong hands - could be used to unleash an unstoppable goblin army. Woochi gleefully obliges them, unaware that they plan to banish him back into the painting should he complete his deadly mission.

Woochi - available on Blu-ray and DVDDespite its slightly baffling ‘15’ certificate, “Woochi” is a light and breezy action film that will appeal to fans of recent Hollywood fantasy fare such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the Harry Potter saga. Don-won Kang imbues Woochi with heaps of playful, boundless energy. Chorangyi, his apparently indestructible and very loyal aid, is apparently a dog but can also transform into a horse and spends most of his time as a human. Together they overcome or more commonly flummox their pantomime enemies, typically through all manner of uncoordinated slapstick hijinks.

The chief baddy is Master Hwadam, played with oodles of suave menace by Yun-seok Kim, very reminiscent of one of Forest Whitaker’s more understated performances. Hwadam is aided by two eight-foot goblins, one who shifts between the forms of a human male and an armour-plated rat, the other between a woman and red-eyed, upright rabbit. Both lieutenants summon memories of the rock-hard and unswerving agents from “The Matrix” triology.

All of the characters in the film possess amazing abilities such as being able to leap over buildings, walk through walls, shoot volleys of elemental energy and change their appearance at the flick of their fingers. Though still developing his powers, Woochi also has a belt stuffed with paper Post-It-style talismans that boost his spells and give him a fighting chance against his more seasoned adversaries.

Directed by Dong-hun Choi, the tone of the movie is charming rather than funny. Once Woochi and Chorangyi are introduced to the present day, they frequently acknowledge the strange digital and skyscraper-filled world they are greeted with; whilst they accentuate the coolness of motorbikes versus horses (for example), they fail to successfully mine the comedy value of their fish-out-of-water predicament.

The special effects are ambitious and occasionally very impressive, but sometimes they look rushed and poorly blended. This is especially true of the goblins in their native animal forms, where their movements lack weight and they do not look like they are properly interacting with the scenery. Far more successful are the numerous wire-fu fights on the roofs of ancient tiled lodgings and up the sides of modern monolithic structures. The action becomes quite dizzying at times as the camera rotates to keep up with the battling characters.

To sum up, “Woochi” is quite a charmer. The film is a little rough around the edges and like the central character it can be bit undisciplined, but it means well and thanks to its bucket-loads of vitality and imagination, the movie sustains the audience’s interest to the final, epic showdown.

Both release formats come with a whole host of extras. On the DVD version reviewed, the main disc has an audio commentary from experts Bey Logan and Mike Leeder, whilst disc two has the following bonus features:

  • DTS HD Master Audio Korean 5.1
  • English Subtitles
  • Trailer Gallery
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie
  • “Making of”
  • Interview Gallery
  • Production Featurettes
  • The Magic of Computer Graphics Featurettes
  • The Premiere
  • The Press Conference
  • The Showcase

The Blu-ray edition has all of this plus an additional 60 minute featurette. The quality of the special features varies quite widely between bland sequences of behind the scenes clips and more professionally-crafted documentaries on key aspects of the production process. In their favour, though, even the more unstructured extras manage to convey the trials of producing a spectacular action movie such as “Woochi”. For example, many of the scenes involve a complex array of wires, crash-mats, multiple camera rigs, and dozens of supporting crew members helping to counterbalance and manipulate the wires attached to the stars, co-ordinate the action and ensure the actors’ safety. These clips highlight how lacking in glamour the acting profession can sometimes be, spending many hours and thirty gruelling at a time left dangling high in the cold night air!

“Woochi - The Demon Slayer” (2009) is out now, courtesy of Cine Asia. The main feature has a total running time of 115 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £17.99 on DVD (2 discs), £24,99 on Blu-ray (1 disc) or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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