Tuesday, April 15, 2014
In the modern world, six masters of Tao still hide their special powers. When of them, the young girl Eui-jin, tries to stop a burglar, her power force accidentally hits the clumsy policeman Sang-hwan. The six masters are amazed he survived the blow, and presume he has the same power as them, the Qi. Sang-hwan thus begins his training to become master of the power. At the same time, Heuk-woon, who wanted to use his special powers to become Arahan, a supreme being that knows everything, is accidentally released from his imprisonment during excavation and wants to take the key from the six masters. With a lot of effort, Sang-hwan and Eui-jin defeat him.
"Arahan" seems to be South Korea's answer to "X-Men", just combining them with Eastern philosophy by using the mystical Qi energy as the explanation for their powers, coined into a modern martial arts films that works and is refreshing also thanks to its humor. The humorous opening sequence of the six masters of Tao drinking coffee during lunch break and lamenting about imposters among their circles ("They pretend they can teach kids the art of fighting, but in reality they just want money!") is delicious, the first scene where the hero, policeman Sang-hwan, shows up, immediately establishes him as a stand-out character for the audience (he stops a car and wants to give it a ticket for speeding. The driver points to the man sitting behind him and says: "Do you know that I am driving an important politician?", but Sang-hwan just flat out says: "He wasn't driving. You were"), the storyline is filled with numerous gags and jokes spoofing the martial arts genre and the superhero cliches whereas the actors are great, especially the cynical Eui-jin as the girl who cannot quite control her Qi energy. Overall, the movie is overlong, the jokes start to wear thin after a while whereas the finale is your run-of-the-mill, conventional showdown with the bad guy, yet since "Arahan" always clearly admits that it only aims to be a relaxed fun without pretensions towards something serious, it works, and some of its fight sequences - Sang-hwan taking revenge on the mafia members in the restaurant by beating them up - almost reach J. Chan's level.