Michaele Jordan is the author of the period occult thriller Mirror Maze and her stories have appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, Interstellar Fiction, The Crimson Pact, Volumes 4 and 5 and Fantasy and Science Fiction. You can visit her website at MichaeleJordan.com while waiting for the upcoming steampunk adventure Jocasta And The Indians.
The fun starts with the title. In Korean, it’s perfectly plain. But in English, this 2009 film is either Woochi, Demon Slayer or Woochi, the Taoist Wizard or simply Woochi. Please do not suppose this means the subtitles are a mess. The production values are excellent (as Koreans expect of writer/director Choi-Dong Hoon, who is famous for his heist films). It’s just fair warning that there are a lot of bewildering twists and turns in this delightful fantasy action comedy.
Our villain is Hwa-dam, played by Yun-seok Kim, who is a star, having started in live theatre, moved up to acclaimed character roles and reached the top as a leading man. There’s a reason he’s a star. He’s good.
Our hero is Jeon Woochi played by Dong-won Kang. While still a student, Mr. Kang was recruited by a modeling agency, and he then jumped from international cat-walks to music videos. But he wanted to act. His first movie was Too Beautiful to Lie, a title that is supposed to refer to the leading lady, but might just as well be taken to mean Mr. Kang. (I swear, on my honor as a fan, his good looks are NOT the reason I loved this movie. Well, not the only reason.)
Woochi is viewed by all the other Taoist wizards as a disrespectful troublemaker-he is mischievous and fun-loving and acquired his powers through magic instead of years of study. But he is powerful-a master of wind and rain and magic. He uses the wind to fly, leap tall buildings and run so fast that he effectively teleports. He doesn’t do much with the rain. As for the magic? Well, “Magic is mostly illusion,” Woochi tells us. He uses his largely to remain well-dressed. It’s very important to him to be well-dressed. He’s a man of style.
Naturally, there’s a pretty girl. Su-jeong Lim portrays the widow Seo In-kyeong, who doesn’t like to read and hates needlework. She is soon in peril as a variety of magicians (not all of them trustworthy) and goblins wrangle for possession of a magic flute-the Pipe of Prophecy. The bitter struggle resolves nothing. The goblins are temporarily banished but the flute is broken while Woochi and his friend (who is either a dog or a horse or a foolish man) are locked away. (I’ll leave the entertaining mechanism for you to discover.)
The villain and the remaining Taoist wizards have nothing left to do but wait. They are good at waiting. They wait five hundred years. Then the goblins start reappearing in the real world. The wizards release Woochi and the chase is on again. Even the pretty girl resumes her place in the story, having been reincarnated as a film star’s gopher girl. When the story moves into the modern world. Director Hoon’s experience with action films really comes into play. There are car chases through dense traffic and fireballs and magic arrows to duck. And nothing is what it seems. Never forget. “Magic is mostly illusion.”
There’s magic. There’s action. There’s cool costumes and intelligent, likeable characters and high production values. The romance is presented with restraint and affection, making Woochi clean enough for the kids. The action is fast paced enough to keep the adults on the edge of their seats, and the story line convoluted enough to keep intellectuals guessing until the end. And best of all, there’s wit and humor, and that wonderful ineffable quality, charm. All in all, this really is a movie that everyone should see.