Release Date(s)2009 (April 9, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
One certainly can’t underestimate cinema, or how successful a film will be, no matter what country it hails from. South Korea, in particular, has been privy to some very good films as of late. In 2009, Woochi (a.k.a. Jeon Woo Chi: The Taoist Wizard), in particular, was a big success for Asian cinema, and brought filmmaker Choi Dong-Hoon out of doing just small heist films and tackling a film with a much bigger budget.
Making its official U.S. debut, Woochi comes to Blu-ray with a slightly new subtitle attached to it: The Demon Slayer. Of course, that doesn’t really describe the character at all. He doesn’t slay demons, he fights mysterious spirits and wizards, so the original title is more accurate in that regard, but oh well. The film itself is pretty good. The big star of the film is the action, and it’s definitely enjoyable in the latter half of the film. It’s definitely not a perfect film though as it has its own fair share of problems. For instance, the English dub of the film can be terrible at times, so watching this with the original audio is definitely preferred. However, this film is also about the visuals, so if you want to watch it with the original Korean soundtrack, then you’ll be doing a lot of reading with the subtitles and missing out on the visuals. It’s a catch-22, but most foreign language films can be in instances like this.
The special effects themselves are decent, but they do stand out as effects and don’t integrate well into the story. The film is also far too long, over two hours actually, when it really could have been streamlined in editing and still would have been entertaining. The first half of the film, especially, could have seen some trimming. It’s a long time before the story gets to the actual plot, and all of that time is spent with a multitude of different characters, many of which we never see again. It’s almost like backstory in a way, but in this case it tells you about what’s going on and establishes the main characters. Perhaps it would have worked better in flashbacks, or something along those lines. I’m not really sure though. I just know that the clash of time periods didn’t sit with me too well and I felt bored a lot of the time. The actors are pretty good, and they pull off some pretty enjoyable moments, but it all felt overly long. My opinion isn’t the majority though, especially in Korea. The popularity of the film there is sufficient enough that it warranted a TV series based on it, so there you go. It’s not perfect, but if you like Asian cinema with lots of cool action, then you’ll probably dig this much more than I did.
For this Blu-ray release, Shout! Factory has done a very nice job with the transfer of the film. It was shot on modern-day film, and it definitely shows. It looks a little too clean at times, but never to the point of overabundance. Grain is absolutely minimal, but it’s there. Although, as I stated previously, the film’s visual look clashes with the different time periods and you have to readjust because of it, it doesn’t mean that the color palette isn’t rich. It’s very rich, and the film seems to have had a heck of a lot of color correction done to it to give it a particular look, especially in the first half of the film. Blacks are very deep and contrast is just perfect, as well. On the audio side of things, there’s not much room for complaint either. You have four options to choose from: both Korean & English 5.1 DTS-HD and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks for each language are identical in quality, other than the language itself, so regardless of how you prefer to watch the film, you won’t be missing out on anything. The 5.1 tracks deliver very even and clean tracks with some great speaker-to-speaker range. They also have a lot of biting low end moments that could rattle the windows in your house if you’re not careful. Even though the English dub is not perfect, the overall soundscape of the soundtrack itself is fantastic, as is the Korean track. There are also optional English subtitles.
In the extras department, Shout! Factory really put together a nice package. They seem to understand that this film has worldwide fans, so they’re giving them something they can really sink their teeth into. There’s The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie featurette; deleted scenes; the original theatrical trailer; a Making of featurette; an Interview Gallery with two interviews: one with the director & the cast and the other with the director, key staff & cast; six Production Featurettes (The Training Process, The World Outside the Frame, Production Design, Action and Special Effects, Shooting and Lighting and Post Production – Sound and Editing); and finally, four featurettes on The Magic of Computer Graphics (Visual Art, CG Scenes in the Pre-Production Stage, CG Mixed in with the Final Stages and The CG Process – The Before & After). It’s not a totally conclusive package, however, as the UK release seems to have some additional extras, including an audio commentary and some bonus featurettes that weren’t ported over for this release.
Woochi isn’t likely to be most people’s pick for a great action movie, but I think Asian cinema fans will eat it up. It’s not a dumb movie, by any means. It’s just not my particular cup of tea. I like my films to not be too lengthy unless it’s necessary, and I don’t think it was in this case. The action, the visuals and the actors are all good, so it’s worth a rent at least.
- Tim Salmons