Release Year: 2007
A demon slayer is hired by a town to kill a few demons, but after completing the task, the town betrays him by dosing his wine with a sleeping potion. It turns out there is a bounty for his head with a large reward. The demon slayer, named Yi Gwak, musters his last bit of strength to escape the town, and eventually he collapses in an abandoned shack. Upon awakening, he finds himself in a Midheaven, a place where the dead go before reincarnation. The people of Midheaven believe he is another dead soul, but later it is revealed that he is still alive, and somehow he was transported to Midheaven by mistake. It seems like he arrived just in time, because demons have also made their way into Midheaven. Then he sees So Hwa, a beautiful “chuneen? spirit that bears a complete resemblance to his deceased wife, Yon Hwa. Although So Hwa can no longer remember being Yon Hwa, Yi Gwak attempts to make her fall in love again, and he also protects from the evil demons that are trying to conquer Midheaven.
The movie is quite different from the average love story I’ve seen from most Korean films. You will see a blending of several genres, including action, fantasy, romance, and drama, however, these elements were not blended with great fluency. This movie was very ambitious, and could have easily been an amazing movie with the right techniques and actors, but ultimately it fails due to imperfect execution. The film had some great ideas and an interesting premise, but there are quite a number of flaws that prevented this film from succeeding. First of all, the acting wasn’t very good. Kim Tae Hee (who plays So Hwa/Yon Hwa) was a little bit too over the top with her emotions; she had crying scenes when she probably shouldn’t have. Due to this, the audience becomes unaffected by the supposedly emotional scenes. Tae-Hee’s relative newness to the movie biz definitely shows with this film. The actor Yi Gwak was somewhat better, but his face always seemed to have the same “I’m really confused? look in each scene. With better acting, this movie could have easily been one of the best movies of the year.
Although marketed as an action drama, this film’s action scenes were poorly done. Tae-Hee is no Jackie Chan, and Yi Gwak definitely isn’t Jet Li. To counterbalance the lack of action talent, the film uses camera angles and special effects to give the illusion of action, but still it fails at providing actual thrills when the characters are fighting. For example, in the last battle between Yi Gwak and demon soldiers, special effects are used to show his sword slicing through hundreds of the demons, but Yi Gwak himself is barely doing anything. Since there are many fighting scenes, the movie felt draggy and boring in those parts.
The movie’s redeeming quality was its creation of the world Midheaven. It was an elaborate fantasy world comparable to the fantastic world of Lord of the Rings. Costume design also seemed heavily inspired by movies such as Lord of the Rings. Artistically, this movie was one of the best I have ever seen in Korean cinema, and this quality alone almost makes this movie worth watching. The Restless is a mediocre film. It was close to being a wonderful film, but there were just a few intangibles that greatly devalued its worth. Kim Tae Hee proves that she still has a long way to go before she’s on the level of the A-list Korean actresses. Still, there is plenty of value in this film, and who knows, you may be one of the people who loves it.