Hansan: Rising Dragon screens on Thursday, July 28 as part of this year’s festivities at the New York Asian Film Festival. The film will release theatrically on July 29 from Well Go USA Entertainment.
Setting the stage for future events, Kim Han-min’s Roaring Currents prequel, Hansan: Rising Dragon, brings us to the year 1592, during the Imjin War in which the naval fleets of Admiral Yi Sun-shin (Park Hae-il), and Japan’s Wakizaka (Byun Yo-han), engage in battles of warships and wits near the shores of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. The latest standstill sees the Japanese army strategizing around Yi’s latest implementation of turtle warships with dragonheads affixed at the bow that can shoot cannons.
Wakizaka, slow-brewing his plans of attack, is quietly eager to seize momentum now that he is in the Lord Chancellor’s favor after two successful incursions with Japan’s army, with an eye to pave a way through Korea and into Ming China. After two devastating naval campaigns under Yi – the last which left Yi injured from a rifleshot a month earlier – it’s up to Yi to mind Korea’s plan of defense while enemy spies circulate in both camps. The remaining five days leading up to Yi’s historical third campaign against Japan’s ruthless army will depend on his ability to outsmart a powerful enemy who may just have the upper hand.
At well over two hours, Kim’s continued foray into history epics telling of the life and legacy of the 16th century admiral invokes a spirited dramatization of events. Park’s portrayal here following that of actor Choi Min-sik in Roaring Currents presents a patient, stoic and focused performance carried alongside an ensemble that also includes Son Hyun-joo and Ahn Sung-ki. The film also introduces Kim Sung-kyun as a fellow admiral brought in to co-steer Japan’s invasion into Korea, a plot development that we soon see evolve into something entirely different as the drama unfolds.
Actress Kim Hyang-gi’s part is one of the most interesting in the film. Her character is completely muted, though the role she plays in how things progress during the film is especially an important one. It helps to pay close attention to how she’s filmed in select sequences and not overlook her in the process as the plot thickens. The same goes for another key character who is taken prisoner by Yi’s army earlier in the film, and whose true intent is later revealed.
The film’s action sequences and set pieces are as grand as it gets, dominated by a hybrid of CG and practical sets with battle sequences aimed at showcasing just how the ships maneuvered in the heat of battle against the tumultuous currents of the water. With a runtime about as long as its predecessor, and forced to mitigate the global pandemic during its grueling production, Kim definitely makes this prequel worth it for moviegoers keen on learning a little about Korean history through the spectacle of thrilling cinematic entertainment.
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.