Hilarious Ha steals show in ‘Kundo’ comedy

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Hilarious Ha steals show in ‘Kundo’ comedy

There are few actors who can pull off comedy, drama and action, especially in one film. And in that respect, there is probably no one better suited to play cleaver-wielding maniac Do-chi in “Kundo: Age of the Rampant” than Ha Jung-woo.

In the last few years, Ha has shown he is more than a winning choice, taking on drama in “The Terror Live,” action in “Berlin Files” and comedy in “Love Fiction.”

In his latest work, which is yet another collaboration with Yoon Jong-bin, who he’s worked with on countless films such as “Nameless Gangster” and “The Unforgiven,” Ha again shows the extremity of his acting range and that comedy is his game above all.

“Kundo” is set during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

The movie kicks off with 18-year-old Dolmuchi (Ha), a simple butcher with simple needs. When he gets caught up with Jo-yoon (Kang Dong-won), the conniving governor of Jeolla, Dolmuchi’s life is never the same again.

With Jo-yoon as his sworn enemy, Dolmuchi not only undergoes a transformation and becomes Do-chi, he also enters a secret society of bandits that another comedic character, Chun-bo, is part of. Together they are defenders of the weak. In fact, the film could be described as Korea’s answer to “Robin Hood.”

From the first scene where he makes his appearance (with hair), to an hour later when his character has undergone some major catastrophes (without hair), Ha with his scarred, bald form captivates as he plays a not-so-bright hero with butchering skills and a collection of men’s hair stubs. Although he does have a sob story, for the most part Do-chi is funny, and, consequently, relatable.

Whether he’s getting hit in the face or is at the hands of merciless foes, Do-chi’s presence always induces laughter.

In contrast, Kang’s power-hungry governor is quite a flat character. Although his come-hither gaze coupled with his long limbs draws attention, Kang fails to convince viewers that there is depth behind the greedy villain he portrays.

While the film’s promoters have been capitalizing on both Ha and Kang’s names to garner attention, it’s clear that Ha is the victor.

To be fair, there isn’t really anything wrong with Kang’s acting, it’s just that his role is one we’ve seen many times before, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, Ha is the one providing all the amusement.

A scene involving the two and a fan as a weapon is not only hilarious, but exemplifies this point. As Kang whacks Ha this way and that, it’s hard to be amazed by Kang’s agile moves as the easier option is to laugh at Ha being beaten.

Such scenes add to the juvenile vibe that “Kundo” exudes. The action sequences are way too fast to even be considered realistic and are accompanied by music reminiscent of a western, which makes it clear that story development was not the focus of the movie.

Yoon had no reservations about this. He professed time and time again that he wanted to make a “lively film that got the heart racing.” And that he did.

But with so much emphasis on jokes, it’s a wonder why more consideration wasn’t given to the narrative, which could have made this good movie great. After all, two hours is more than enough for just giggling.

Everything about the film is simple, and the character development is linear. But simplicity may be a welcome change at a box office that has been inundated with local films about assassins and complex emotions.

And with corruption and misbehaving politicians in the spotlight of late, “Kundo” will no doubt hit a chord with the young and the young at heart.

BY CARLA SUNWOO [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]

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