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Bichunmoo: Warrior Of Virtue
cast: Shin Hyun-june, Kim Hee-sun, Jeong Jin-young, and Jang Dong-jik

director: Kim Young-jun

113 minutes (15) 2000 widescreen ratio 16:9
Premier Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Rob Marshall
Set in 14th century China, this swordplay fantasy is based on a popular 1980s' comics series, and has been compared to Ang Lee's fabulous Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Bichunmoo (trans: flying warriors) refers to "Bi Chun Shin Gi" - a secret art of sword fighting, the acquisition of which forms a martial backdrop to the plot's dilemmas of passion, and marital predicaments. Peasant warrior Yu Jinha (Shin Hyun-june, the star of Siren, 2000) loves concubine's daughter Sullie (Kim Hee-sun) but loses her when she's married off to a nobleman in a political arrangement between wealthy clans. Once childhood sweethearts, now estranged lovers, Jinha and Sullie share a tragic destiny and, while this isn't Shakespearean like Kurosawa's stuff, the emotional dramas of their doomed romance are moving without being soppy. The two leads, Shin and Kim, are not what you'd call great actors, but it helps that he does the silent brooding act so well as stoic hero Jinha, while she is the exquisitely beautiful woman you'd expect soulmate Sullie to be in such a classically generic story as this.
   It's formulaic nature and action clichés aside; perhaps the big surprise about Bichunmoo is that it's not from Hong Kong. Although it was shot on locations in China, and benefits from the imagination and skills of Hong Kong martial arts' choreographer Ma Yuk-sheng (Swordsman 2, Butterfly And Sword), this film is a Korean production, with Korean stars and the astonishingly stylish directorial debut from Kim Young-jun.
   This two-disc package from Premier Asia, a promising label from the company behind Hong Kong Legends, features a digitally re-mastered anamorphic transfer enhanced for widescreen TV, with choice of English dubbed or Korean language sound (Dolby digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1), and subtitles in English or Dutch. The expert commentary by Bey Logan and Mike Leeder serves up plenty of helpful trivia but often drifts way off-topic when these guys indulge in namedropping and rambling chat about their own film projects (Logan seems to plug his Highbinders picture, and mention his association with Jackie Chan, in every DVD commentary).
   Worthwhile extras on disc two include filmed interviews with the director, the leading man, and the action director (subtitled, approx 20 minutes each), isolated score in Music Library (14 chapters), a behind-the-scenes look at the Action Of Bichunmoo with the stunts director, some outtakes and candid camera footage of the main cast, star biographies and film notes, CGI montage in From Concept To Realisation, photo galleries, and promo trailers.
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