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The Age of Blood [2018]: Dubiety of unanswered questions

Before reading here’s a fair cautionary message for all – delving into Hallyu has been very close to the heart but be rest assured that it is never close enough to have me become less critical. There was a time in life when I could watch Korean films without subtitles. So habituated with the language and their entertainment culture, I hardly ever missed anything. Not a movie, not a drama-series and never a song.




The Age of Blood, that starts out pretty interesting with a lot skilled enough to rescue their leader from the prison. Rising in rebellion against the king, they will stop at nothing and only a prison guard strong enough to stop them from doing so. Kim-ho (Jung Hae-in), who used to be a swordsman for the king has now been appointed as a petty prison guard. Living a hand-to-mouth life, Kim-ho is never short on his pride and ego. Suspiciously, after receiving a scroll from the king’s court, Kim-ho is given a job he doesn’t like. Why?

The one problem with the film is that it forgets to revere its characters. Keeping in mind that each character, with their own skill-set, had a motive to achieve, the content needed to come with explanations and backdrops giving meaning to actions and words on screen. What misses the whole point of the film was Kim-ho’s greater struggles that not only made him stronger but also gave him an unflinching identity.

The writing left its characters isolated to a mere delivery of movement and dialogues. This automatically didn’t offer enough space for the audience to empathize, hate, pity or deeply love the characters or even one of them. Letting the plot tread based on one man’s shoulders was a rather big risk taken that not only hampered the audience’s understanding of different behaviors – good or bad, it also lead one into a load of confusion regarding character motives.

The film begins with an animation that is a little loud to the eyes. Not only that, it is paced in a haphazard manner that very conveniently establishes the roots of confusion. The animated plates needed some time on the screen, given that the audiences are completely alien to the language.




 

The Age of Blood passes for a good martial-arts action film. It is a rather a courageous decision to have all the action sequences filmed in the dark hours of the day. This also brings me to the choreographed action sequences and that looked like seemingly honest efforts that have gone into making them look real. These are sequences that have gushes of blood splattering on the lens every time Kim-ho skewers a member from the enemy clan. The lensing is therefore, intentional and matches the tone of the plot. However, what I missed the most was the answer to one question – “Who was Kim-ho?”




 

With a cast so riveting this could have been one of the finest films of 2017, nevertheless, the appreciation does not shrink because of flaws that were just discussed.

Here’s a film that could change the conventional treatment of action heroes – surely the need for him to be vulnerable and be beaten to pulp while fighting his enemies still remains, but to know about this hero’s fears and strengths with a well-told past could also work. Therefore, here’s the story of a once reputed swordsman who descended into becoming a prison guard, and why, still remains unknown. And so here’s a hesitant recommendation for The Age of Blood for fervid fans of martial arts only.

★★★

‘THE AGE OF BLOOD’ PREMIERED AT THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2018.
BUY TICKETS HERE.

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