Starring: Ha Jung-woo as Dolmuchi, Kang Dong-won as Jo Yoon,
Lee Geung-young as Ttaeng-choo, Lee Sung-min as Dae-ho, Jo Jin-woong as Lee Tae-ki, Ma Dong-seok as Tianbao, Yoon Ji-hye as Ma-hyang, Ju Jin-mo as Song Young-gil, Song Young-chang as Jo Won-sook and Jung Man-sik as Butler Yang
Rating: R, subject matter and violence
Running Time: 135 min
Twinkies: 4++ stars
Synopsis: The year is 1859, feudal Joseon is plagued with numerous natural disasters, poor harvest, poverty. hunger and death. But the rich nobles are only concerned with their own wealth and continue to exploit and persecute the poor. In this dark period, KUNDO, a righteous group of thieves, was a single shred of hope for the poor, an entity which can be the subject of fear to unjust nobles.
Joo Yoon is the son of wealthy nobleman, but his mother is a concubine. Even though he excels in martial arts, he isn’t recognized for his talents because of his lineage.
After killing poor butcher Dol Moo-Chi’s mother and sister, millionaire Joo Yoon commands absolute power over him. Clouded by vengeance, Dol Moo-Chi is accepted as a member of KUNDO and unsheathes his sword for the weak.
Musings: I’m going to try to make this review short. Why? Because I could ramble on for days about how much I loved this movie for various reasons. So instead of giving you a lot of pictures, this time you are going to have read just why this movie was so special.
First of all, I grew up in the earlier years of the last century. I spent a lot of time watching what we Americans called “The Spaghetti Westerns”. Some of you are too young to even know what that term refers to so here is a short cinematography history lesson. “Spaghetti Westerns” refer to that period in US Film studio history (late 50s-70s) where the profitability and popularity of the old style western movies had faded. However, the western genre hadn’t died yet in the European countries and so several directors and producers from countries like Italy took up the gauntlet and began making low budget westerns filmed primarily in Italy and South American. Such actors like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and others, careers blossomed because of this period. The “Spaghetti Westerns” were known to be gritty as well as funny at the same time. Yes, blood and laughter, that is what I remember dearly.
The director of Kundo obviously was a fan of that genre. From the music, the general setup of the movie as well as the infusion of comedy were all there. As I watched and listened to the familiar guitar twanging, it truly took me back to that period. Another great thing about this movie was the cast of characters. It is not often that you have such an ensemble of actors together and remember everything about each and every character.
We had Dolmuchi, a former butcher (one of the lowest class in the Joseon Dynasty) joining the Kundo band of outlaws to avenge the death of his family. The scene where Dolmuchi (later renamed Dolchi by the gang) feverishly tried to save his family but failed was sad, vivid, and so memorable.
Ttaeng-choo or the Notorious Monk was the leader of the band in my estimation. Not only was he a monk but it carried a seriously wicked stick of death but also in comic relief. No, not going to tell you how, you’d have to watch to see.
Dae-ho was the official leader of the band. Like everyone else, he has a back story that is briefly featured so that you can understand his reasons for being part of the band. Let’s just say his was two-fold: revenge and redemption.
Chun-Bo was the muscle man of the band. One punch from this man sends an unsuspecting soldier flying against a tree, building or simply in the air.
Ma-Hyang was a female force to be reckoned with. Her proficient with the bow as well as sword were actions that you rarely get to see in a female character in a period piece. I loved how she took nothing from her fellow band mates and dealt with Chun-Bo one-handedly (he has a crush and she’s wasn’t having none of it).
Lee Tae-Ki was the brains of the operations. He was constantly used to infiltrate the scene and he easily blended in as he was a disgraced aristocrat so he could easily talk to nobles and get information without them even knowing it.
Most of all, the main reason I watched this movie was for the sensational as well as super evil villain, Jo Yoon. A nobleman’s son, is gifted in martial arts, but twisted by the fact that he was born to a concubine and unacknowledged by his father with no rights in the family or Joseon society. At first, you couldn’t help to be sympathetic to his character when he was younger but the adage about a child without love…he definitely fit the bill and so his evilness was made from his total neglect and abuse from his father and step mother.
I could go on and on about the cast! There are so many familiar faces that anyone who is a fan of the sageuk dramas/movies will easily recognize. Everyone stood out as their character. All of them were memorable. And the cinematography, green screen effects and scenery were so hard to tell apart that I even had a hard time telling the difference between the real and the stage. This movie, along with just about every movie of this ilk is graphic; not too bloody but definitely not for those sensitive to death and violence. The ending was perfect and just what you would have expected, no surprises there. I loved this movie and I am so glad I can watch it again and again and again. Yes, by the time you read this, I’ll probably have watched it again. So worth the over 2 hours and I was NEVER bored!!
Trailer is available on on YouTube Website only. The movie is available on several sites. Ask me if your interested. Also available on Netflix if you are a subscriber.
I’m available on Twitter. Thanks to all of you Twinkles out here who are taking the time to read! If you have a suggestion for a future review, just leave me a comment! I’m always happy to have movie suggestions.