Once Upon A Battlefield (2003)

Directed by
Not great, not bad, just OK
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-25

Well, I rented and viewed Hwang San Beol (Once Upon A Battlefield) and... it's ok. Not great, not bad, just ok :)

I was really hampered in enjoying it by my lack of Korean history knowledge - so many different characters and kingdoms all with different agendas and whatnot, and I couldn't keep track of what was going on at all - a quick glance at the product info page at dvdasian half way through the film helped a lot though.

I don't really think the plan to "replace facts with laughter" was a terribly good one, but the comedy may be better appreciated by a Korean audience - at least some of it was based on the different dialects the kingdoms spoke, which the subtitler tried to translate but failed to make it amusing or interesting. There's a lot of people getting mad and shouting at each other, that backbone of Korean comedy, but as with Romantic Warriors it didn't seem to work well in the period setting. The Monty Python-esque battle of insults and suggestive body language was pretty funny though.

The production design was nice, lots of cool costumes and custom built sets and weapons etc. Not nearly as sumptuous as Musa, but a decent effort. The grand battle at the end seemed kind of short - apparently they hired 2000 extras and spent 10 days filming it, but there's only one very brief shot where you see more than a few dozen people on screen, so I don't think they got the best value for money there.

Overall, Hwang San Beol is closer to ROMANTIC WARRIORS than it is to MUSA, but whilst it can't hold a candle to the latter it is definitely more enjoyable than the former. Not one of Korea's better films, but an ok watch for those that like their historical epics and their foul mouthed angry koreans :)