Arahan (2004) Review

"Arahan" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Arahan” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
Writer: Ryoo Seung-wan
Producer: Kim Mi-Hee
Cast: Ryu Seung-Beom, Yun So-Yi, Ahn Seong-Gi, Jeong Du-Hong, Yun Ju-Sang, Kim Young-In, Baek Chan-Gi, Kim Ji-Young
Running Time: 114 min.

By Alexander


I’ve FINALLY seen a FUN Asian film. YAY! No live squids being eaten here. No rapes. No severed Achilles tendons. No punctured jugulars. No cannibal babies. Just a lot of comedy, some fantastic martial arts action, a virtuosic performance by Ryu Seung-beom, and the super-fine Yun So-Yi. And before you scream “But what about the fun romantic comedy My Sassy Girl starring Korea’s darling Jeon Ji-Hyun?!”

Hated it.

I’ve no patience right now to summarize the complex plot (work beckons), but I’d recommend you do as both Equinox21 and I did: watch the film without knowing a thing about it.


So stop reading this review.

I’m warning you.

Alright. Up to you.

Anyway, I assumed I was going to be watching a Musa-like period piece. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover something akin to a cotemporary super-hero story with some fight scenes seemingly ripped from the pages of Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu comic.

Ryu Seung-beom as Sang-hwan is the best thing about Arahan. While his whiny, rubber-faced shtick is grating early in the film, Seung-beom dials the antics down considerably and actually emerges as a pretty convincing action hero late in the film. His transformation from super-geek to world-saving martial artist is gradual and believable. The rest of the cast is nearly as stellar, and Yun So-Yi is absolutely stunning (and kicks a ton of ass, to boot).

There are also many shout outs to other films in Arahan. Part of the fun of watching Arahan stems from trying to identify the many movie references. Reservoir Dogs, Power Rangers, 5 Lucky Stars, Taxi Driver, George of the Jungle, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan all get referenced in some form or another.

Highly recommended.

Alexander’s Rating: 9/10

By Iuxion

With a somewhat novel premise, Arahan tells the story of the world of Tao, which exists alongside the normal modern world that everyone else seems to be stuck in. In the world of Tao, there are seven legendary Tao masters (read: kung fu badasses), who protect mankind or something like that. Everything is a little tongue-in-cheek, cleverly put together, and overall it makes for a pretty entertaining movie. The plot revolves around a dorky police officer (Ryu Seung Beom), who gets involved with the seven masters, and ends up having to save the world. Yeah, it all sounds a little cliché, but the film plays around with them (the clichés, that is), and it just ends up making the whole experience better.

While the comedy’s good, the action can’t quite keep up. A restaurant fight scene is well done, and some training sequences are fine, but I felt that the final fight sequence dragged on a little too long for my tastes, and none of the fights really contained outstanding choreography or technique, although perhaps they were just not to my tastes (most people enjoyed them just fine, from what I’ve read). Regardless, if you like a good Korean comedy and are into (or have been into) martial arts movies, Arahan is a must see.

Iuxion’s Rating: 8/10

By Equinox21

I usually love popping in a DVD and knowing nothing about the movie. Sometimes, depending on how nice the packaging is, I’m really anticipating it and sometimes I’m really dreading it. I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can usually tell a lot about a movie based on how much effort went into designing a nice package for it. Well, this is the case with Arahan. The only thing I knew about it was that it was directed by Ryu Seung-wan (his follow up to one of the coolest Korean flicks yet, No Blood No Tears) and it starred his brother, Ryu Seung-beom.

Arahan turned out to be a flick that remided me a little bit of a Korean comedy version of The Matrix (minus the computers ruling the world bit). There is the real world that everyone knows, but then there’s the secret Tao world in which people are masters Kung-fu style fighting and have the ability to walk on water and walls, levitate, use a “Palm Blast” type maneuver and are all around defenders of peace and justice. Such is the case with Wi-jin, to everyone she’s a simple convenience store cashier, but when she senses crime in progress she excuses herself and chases down the mugger’s motorcycle. Also on the mugger’s trail is a lowly traffic cop, Sang-hwan (Seung-beom), who gets blasted off his feet as Wi-jin fires her notoriously hard to aim palm blast. This starts a strange relationship as Sang-hwan is discovered to have some of these Taoist powers dormant in his body, and has them unlocked through secret acupuncture techniques performed by Wi-Jin’s father, Ja-woon (Ahn Sung-ki).

It’s kinda a long complex story, but it’s sprinkled with great comedy and amazing special effects. There are great fights of all kinds. You get terrific hand to hand fights and some slick weapons duels. All trying to take out a guy who has some seriously bad Tao powers.

Everyone should see this movie, if only for the enjoyable martial arts, incredible one-shot during the big swordfighting scene near the end and the Brothers Ryu. Seriously.

Equinox21’s Rating: 9.5/10

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2 Responses to Arahan (2004) Review

  1. Paul Bramhall says:

    As much as I’m a fan of both Ryoo Seung-wan and Ryoo Seung-beom, shamefully I only watched this for the first time recently.

    Interesting trio of reviews (old-school COF style!). If this is the first ‘FUN Asian film’ that Alexander has come across, I guess at the time it must have only been the 4th or 5th Asian flick they’d seen. Although admittedly, sometime fun comes down to definition, eating live octopus in Korea is pretty normal, so the shocking aspect of the scene in ‘OldBoy’ (presumably this is the movie being referenced) really only applies to a western audience.

    My opinion mostly aligns with luxion’s, I found it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, but agree the end fight dragged slightly. I think the main reason behind that was due to it trying to cram so much into the scene…you had comedy (some of which really worked – the part where Yoon Soy arches her leg behind her back for an airborne Seung-beom to launch off, only for him to miss it and be inadvertently kicked between the legs – made me laugh out loud). the drama of the key, and ‘The Matrix’ influenced wire assisted impacts sending everyone 10 feet into the air in slow motion whenever they got hit. The result saw the pacing not quite hit the mark, but its a minor quibble.

    All in all, a highly recommended 3rd feature from Ryoo Seung-wan!

  2. Robert says:

    Hi the movie arahan l like action sometimes funny please inform any good chinese classic novel movies

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