Bichunmoo (South Korea 2000)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 8/11/01
Director: Kim Young-Jun
Cast: Shin Hyun-Joon, Kim Hee-Sun

After "Shiri" blew away Korean box office records in 1999, only a year later did "Bichunmoo" do the same thing. "Bichunmoo" is a stunning period film that's about 60% romantic drama and 40% martial arts action. Less than five minutes into the film, I knew I was going to be crying - a lot. Like many swordplay dramas, the story is convoluted and very confusing at times, but at its core it's a story of a doomed love triangle and the forbidden passions of people who are separated by class, duty, and social status. The inevitable outcome of such ill-fated love can only be heartbreaking tragedy in spades (Tsui Hark's "The Lovers" (1994) immediately comes to mind...). Top rate acting, breathtaking cinematography, and a stirring music score make this film an emotionally exhausting ride. And amidst all of this heart wrenching romantic goo is a bunch of high energy Hong Kong styled sword fighting, complete with blood geysers, dismemberment, and the ever popular torso splitting. The action scenes are quite good, and are reminiscent of the "Swordsman" (1990) series. The only area where the film suffers is in the digital effects department. While they're never embarrassingly bad, some of the digital compositions are distracting and just don't look very good. So, if you can handle a huge load of weepy and depressing romantic drama, this is a great film to check out.