Seen in Jeonju

The Sword With No Name (2009)

6th October 2009

sword with no namePlease! Someone take that slow motion camera away from the director!”  That is what I wrote at the top of my notepad right after watching Kim Yong-gyun’s (director of Red Shoes and Wanee and Junha) latest movie.  I was extremely disappointed with this film. I had gone in on opening day with moderate expectations determined by a combination of  flashy television ads and lackluster reviews. I was not expecting anything great.  However, what I got was worse than I imagined.  The story could have been interesting–it was the tale of the last queen of Chosun who was murdered by Japanese assassins on the palace grounds for her progressive stance on politics and her work towards opening up Korea to the West.  But as interestng as that could have been, the movie focuses on a fictional romance between the Queen and her bodyguard.

I have nothing against ‘enhancing’ history to make a movie more interesting even though I think the life of the Queen was interesting enough with giving her adulterous aspirations.  That point is not the major complaint I have with the film.  I did, however, take offence with how her important work in negotiating with foreign ambassadors was reduced to a montage of such activities as tasting chocolate, trying cigarettes and wearing the latest styles. The next thing we know, she is being praised for a stellar job at negotiating with the Russians and securing peace in the region.

But butchering history is the least of this movie’s problems.  The main fault in the film lies with the pacing. It is rare to watch a movie where the action sequences  slow down the story so much that scenes like ‘dining with the king’ were more exciting. Every action piece is done nearly entirely in slow motion with a hefty dose of CGI.  Two of the more poorly done graphics involved a butterflies and leaping carp which may or (more likely) may not have had any meaning attached to them. However, the worst was a fight scene taking place in the palace hall that inexplicably changes into an arctic ice field and looks all the world lie a video game. The whole scene serves absolutely no purpose in the story and is rivalved in its uselessness only by the ‘dream fight’ sequence with the aforementioned flying carp.

The sole bright in this movie was the acting of lead actress Su Ae. She manages to make her character regal in the face of opposition, assassins and bad scripting. I also appreciated the time and effort that  went into creating the costumes and sets. I cannot say much that is favorable about the other actors in the film. Cho Seung-woo’s character was much too modern in his mannerisms to have lived in Chosun while Kim Yeong-min as the King was given surprising little to do considering how important the Queen’s husband should have been to the story.  The script seemed to ignore all of the supporting cast and did nothing to flesh out any of the extra characters. Even the lead characters could have been developed more–instead of slo-mo action, the writers could have spent more time on their backstories.

To make this film better, I believe all of the action scenes should have been cut or severely reduced with the exceptions of the initial assassination attempt at the beginning of the film and the final scene.  As it is though, I have very little positive to say about this film, except it probably will be nomitated for a ‘Best Costumes’ Award at the Blue Dragon Movie Awards and actress Su Ae was a pleasure to watch. For those two reasons alone, I would give The Sword With No Name 2 stars out of 5.

2 Responses to “The Sword With No Name (2009)”

  1. Joker Says:

    Hi, Where are you from? Is it a secret? :)
    Thank you

  2. Tom Says:

    No secret! That is in the ‘About’ section of the blog ^^. I am originally from Rhode Island but have been living here in Korea since 1995.