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Musa: The Warrior (Region 0 Hong Kong Version)

International - // Unrated // Region 0
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]

Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted January 16, 2005 | E-mail the Author

style="COLOR: midnightblue">The Movie>

> > Set in 14th Century


, Korean director Kim
style="COLOR: midnightblue">Musa: The
style="COLOR: black">spins a rousing and engaging adventure tale, the like of
which seems to have been lost to filmmakers of late. Equal parts fast-moving
action extravaganza, big-budget spectacle (the film was shot with a reported $60
million budget), and historical costume drama, the film moves at a breakneck
pace yet never seems rushed or forced. Instead of jumping willy-nilly from one
action piece to the next, Kim is content to give his characters and situations
the opportunity to breathe and resonate on screen. While loaded to the gills
with grisly and often quite violent action content, there is an ongoing sense of
gravity and emotional urgency to the characters and their predicaments
throughout the film. One thrills to the fast and free-flowing action, but at the
same time you find yourself caught up in the storyline, inevitably caring about
these people and their struggles. While I am loathe to compare one film to
another, the film is constantly evocative of Michael Mann's The Last of the
(another historical adventure/drama which I thoroughly loved) for
that very reason. As in Mann's film, the action in
style="FONT-WEIGHT: normal; COLOR: midnightblue; mso-bidi-font-weight: bold">Musa:
The Warrior
style="COLOR: black">is even more thrilling because we truly care about those
involved with and enmeshed within it.

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 w:st="on">Korea, the Koryo dynasty has sent a
diplomatic envoy to the ruling Ming body, led by the brash expert swordsman and
general Choi Jung (Joo Jin-Moi) and bolstered by the battle-hardened archery of
Sergeant Jinlip (Ahn Sung-Gi), the strategic and paternal field
commander of the outfit. However, upon reaching their destination the group
is captured, accused of being spies for the Yuan, and sent into exile in the
desert. While in exile, the group is attacked by Yuan rebels and freed from
their captivity (the Yuan have no beef with the Koreans; only their Ming
captors.) On their way back to w:st="on">Korea, the main diplomat is killed,
in essence freeing his slave Yeosol (Jung Woo-Sung), a silent, steely-eyed
warrior whose battlefield prowess and mastery of the spear is second to none.
While the group is resting and eating at a local campsite, Yeosol
single-handedly takes-on and bests a handful of Yuan warriors in combat. He ends
up being captured by Yuan general Rambulhwa (Yu Rongguang), who is impressed by
the feral warrior's combat ability. General Choi is willing to leave the slave
to his fate, but the situation changes when he captures a glimpse of Princess
Furong (Zhang Ziyi), a Ming princess captured by the Yuans. Ostensibly sensing
an opportunity to make peace with the Mings by returning their captured
princess, Choi rescues Furong and Yeosol, setting off a cat-and-mouse chase
throughout the Chinese wilderness between the Yuan rebels and the small band of
Korean exiles (who are joined by a group of Han refugees they encounter shortly

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

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 style="COLOR: midnightblue">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.

style="COLOR: midnightblue">


style="COLOR: midnightblue">Video:

> > 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

>style="COLOR: darkblue">>>> >color=midnightblue>Audio:style="COLOR: darkblue">


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.

style="COLOR: midnightblue"> >>>>> >color=midnightblue>Extras:style="COLOR: midnightblue">


There are no extras included on this

style="COLOR: midnightblue"> color=midnightblue>Final Thoughts:

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
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!







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