Set in 14th Century
After the collapse of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty,
the ascendant Ming dynasty is on the offensive to put down any outbreaks of Yuan
rebellion. In the neighboring
The conflicts are quickly delineated within the group: both Yeosol and Choi vie for the affection and attention of the lovely princess, while true leadership of the group seems to hinge between Choi and Jinlip, the former being more preoccupied with the princess and his mission, while the latter being more concerned with his men and getting them home. Class conflict also becomes a recurring theme: the loftiness of the princess is contrasted sharply against both the wretched state of the Han refugees as well as Yeosol's status as a slave. The cost to return her is paid in both Han refugee and Korean exile blood, and the question of whether or not their sacrifice is justified is a recurring theme throughout the film.
Yet the most impressive element Musa: The Warrior of is the action. The proceedings here are more Braveheart than Hero, eschewing CGI and over-stylized balletic movements with raw, grisly brutality. That's not to say that the action presented here isn't at times gracefully or even beautifully rendered, but the film is more concerned with the raw, chaotic kineticism of battle than stylized hyper-reality. Limbs are severed, heads roll, and gushing bloody wounds are exposed with utmost detail by an unflinching camera. If violence is not your cup of tea, prepare for heapin' honkin' helpful of Earl Grey.
If there is a weak element of Musa: The Warrior, it is perhaps in Zhang Ziyi. Her performance is regal and austere enough, but her role is woefully underwritten. The beautiful young actress radiates charisma but the character of Princess Furong is so slight and one-note that Zhang cannot do much with her. Compared with some of the meatier roles in the film, Zhang's participation almost seems like an afterthought. Still, it's a minor complaint in an otherwise enjoyable and rousing motion picture.
Musa: The Warrior is presented in its original
widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and has been anamorphically-enhanced for your
widescreen-viewing enjoyment. The film seems to be bathed in sepia tones; there
is a brownish-orange tint to most of the movie, which should not be confused
with poor contrasts and muted color levels. Image detail is generally pleasing,
with fine sharpness levels and only occasional moments of softness present.
Colors and contrasts are stylized (as mentioned before) but well presented, with
acceptable black levels and fine shadow delineation. Some minor print flaws are
noticeable at times, but these are extremely few and far in between. Compression
noise is non-existent, while some edge haloing is discernable. Despite the
nitpicks, this is overall a fine
Audio:The audio is presented in both Cantonese and Korean audio tracks, each delivered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The sound on this DVD is simply superb, with aggressive and engaging utilization of the soundfield to present a thoroughly entertaining soundtrack. The copious amounts of action onscreen are blended well with the accompanying sonic delivery; every arrow, hoof beat, clash of swords, and battle cry is well placed throughout the mix, resulting in a sharp and focused presentation. Surrounds are put to good use here; the mix presents fine imaging and directionality, with solid use of LFE to provide solid low-end rumbling. Dialog levels are crisp and generally clear; no awful English dub is included here, although thankfully there are English subtitles.
Extras:There are no extras included on this DVD.
A must for serious action/adventure fans, Musa: The Warrior is perhaps one of the most accessible Korean films for Western audiences I have seen (provided that said audience doesn't run screaming from foreign films with subtitles.) The story is straightforward, the characters clearly delineated, and the action fast and bloody enough for even the most discriminatory of action fans. But where the film stands apart from the mundane is in its attention to character, plot, and conflict. Musa: The Warrior is a story first and foremost instead of a being little more than spectacle. And yet, Kim Sung-su's film still remains a breathtaking spectacle to behold. Recommended!