Well Go USA
Writer/director Jason Kim’s fourth and latest film brings the ultimate battle between good and evil to the big screen with supernatural thriller, The Divine Fury. Rejoining his Midnight Runners actor Park Seo-Joon, fans are in for a dark, supernatural tale that runs on plenty of pathos to couple with otherworldly intrigue, and a touch of gore and gruesome imagery to boot.
Martial arts action is merely the icing on the cake for the spectacle and drama that Kim takes aim at for The Divine Fury, specifically showcasing a mixed-martial arts trained character. Not a whole lot of MMA gets exhibited here for Seo-joon’s portrayal, but it’s plenty enough in terms of invoking fisticuffs with super-sized battles involving a few wire gags, practical effects and average-to-fair CG to amplify things.
For all this, Seo-joon takes the wheel in the role of Yong-hu, an undefeated MMA champion at the height of his career. Raised by his police officer father as a church going catholic since the loss of his mother during birth, Yong-hu is consumed by embitterment and darkness when his father is killed in the line of duty – a tragedy further induced by the pain of knowing his prayers for his father’s recovery were never answered.
Soon, a series of night terrors and apparitions trigger an inexplicable stigmata on his right hand to formulate. Seeking the counsel of a young female shaman who only sees spirits, Yong-hu is directed toward a church near where he lives, arriving in time to save the life of Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-ki), a Vatican priest on assignment to investigate the chilling events in Seoul hinting at the presence of The Dark Bishop: an enigmatic figure who fronts a night club while operating as a satanic vassal for a serpentine demon.
The incident is Yong-hu’s first foray into the underworld of exorcisms, engaging him as a new recruit in the war on satan as he applies his mark to exorcise the Bishop’s demons from the bodies they inhabit throughout Seoul. Despite his apprehension toward faith, he nonetheless accompanies Father Ahn on his endeavors, intrigued by the mystique of his own afflictions and what they mean, and the purpose of the mark on his hand.
The two even share an occasional levity that invokes a deepening bond slowly coming to fruition as signature of Yong-hu’s own healing. The film later underscores the significance of this as we become mildly familiar with Father Ahn and his whose own bereavements and sorrow, and learn why it is he walks the path he walks.
I was instantly pleased with Sung-ki’s performance as Father Ahn in this movie, as he’s been a favorite of mine for years Nowhere To Hide and Arahan. Next to his dramatic caliber, he’s also one of the most physically engaging actors I’ve ever known, serving as a plus in compatibility with Seo-joon who himself excudes impressive screenfighting talent and action star gravitas.
Award-winning drama star, actor Woo Do-Hwan takes on his first major film role following Operation Chromite and Pan-Asian corporate crime thriller, Master, playing the Dark Bishop himself, Ji-Shin. He’s a self-styled master of deception and illusion and a purveyor of the occult who utilizes voodoo methods of manipulating people, sacrificing lives to collect souls, make himself stronger and posses the bodies of innocents.
He’s at his strongest when he’s forced to make one final sacrifice in a devastating fight with Yong-ho, initiating one of the best costume villain brawls I’ve ever seen. The detail itself is exquisite in its practicality, and it had me thinking back to the “what could’ve beens” with a key villain character from an early Ryuhei Kitamura sci-fi thriller called Alive. This isn’t a dig at Kitamura, just a fan’s reflection on costume design per the course of film production with respect to budgets and scale. I reckon the budget for The Divine Fury was pretty ample.
Don’t confuse The Divine Fury for the average commercial martial arts release. The fight action is only ornamental as it is pivotal to the story development when called upon. The characters and overall drama and scene depictions are all well applied in Kim’s directorial vision, and intergral to what we get in terms of fight scenic spectacle, coordinated and brilliantly shot with choreographers Park Young-sik and Lim Wang-sup on hand.
A suitable feat for the action horror crowd, moviegoers fond of Korean titles and thrilling stories will take a definitive liking to The Divine Fury. Watching the story unfold became extremely fun by the third act with Yong-hu going to town on Ji-Shin’s henchmen, and the emotionally-charged and powerful finale between our stoic, unassured hero and his newly-evolved maniacal archenemy.
The film finishes with an open-ended twist that invites co-star Choi Woo-sik to carry the torch for a new chapter. That chapter etches itself with a solid start from Kim and company with The Divine Fury, hailing a righteous action and horror thrillride worth believing in.
THIS FRIDAY ✋Mixed martial arts action meets horror in THE DIVINE FURY, starring Park Seo-joon, Ahn Sung-ki and Woo Do-hwan. Look for a theater near you: https://t.co/kZCrCnwcU0 pic.twitter.com/D2dUBoIhrq
— Well Go USA Entertainment (@wellgousa) August 12, 2019