Directed by the same mastermind behind The King and the Clown, Blades of Blood is a fictional historical film, set in 1592, in which swordsman Lee Mong-hak says he wants to save Korea from invasion by the Japanese and he’s willing to rebel against the king to do it. It is a great period piece detailing men in the lower class who fight for social equality during the Chosun era. As a film itself however, the story just isn’t interesting, since it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There’s moments when it could be, instead, it marks filler between action bits. But, the action delivers in strides.
It takes the form of a movie about an ‘avenging the slain family’ movie which is something we have all seen before. Quite frankly, this film isn’t anywhere near as engrossing as director Lee Jun-ik’s earlier film, The King and the Clown. There is a good amount of sword fights but despite the films title, there isn’t really that much blood shed. Don’t get me wrong, Blades of Blood is definitely one of the best Korean period costume films of the year, it is just that statement doesn’t hold much weight.
Blades of Blood offers spectacular visuals and some decent action sequences, but nothing much else. There is also a bit of a homage to Zatoichi as his old friend Hwang Jeong-hak is an uncanny blind swordsman who seeks the help of a vengeful young man to stop him. Just as the king abandoned his kingdom from Japanese invasion, the two come face-to-face inside the empty palace and begin their last battle they were destined to fight. The battle sequence is filled with lush colors and quick swordplay that I was very impressed with. In addition to the actiom, there of course was a romantic subplot, between the two main characters, which was beautifully-handled.
All in all, a slightly above average flick that should be watched by fans of period dramas. Based on a comic series created by Park Heung-yong, this might explain the comical slow motion that was used during the fights. Most likely used as a distraction to offer some cooler effect, for me, the real strength lie within the story. The ironies of Mong-hak’s choices, the details of betrayel and the alliances, to the survival of the many threats presented, THIS is what made me at the edge of my seat at times. As a film, it is so-so, however as pure spectacle, Blades of Blood outdoes numerous gimmicky special effect extravaganzas us Westerners are so unfortunately used too.