Arahan has a couple big problems. One is just for me–I didn’t get the final joke. I wonder if it was something cultural. The other one has to do with mainstream Korean cinema. Arahan takes a lot from Western blockbusters (most obviously The Matrix… though there’s a nice Back to the Future homage) and marries it to Korean filmmaking sensibilities. It just doesn’t have the budget and director Ryoo doesn’t have the ability to make it special.
As a comedic martial arts fantasy, it’s an enjoyable outing. The third act fight scene, lasting something like twenty minutes, is a little long but Arahan has just spent ninety minutes making the protagonist so likable, it gets the leeway.
The film just can’t achieve its potential, not with Ryoo, the occasionally weak special effects and the awful music from Han Jae-kwon.
Ryu Seung-beom is very likable in the lead–he’s an earnest, if naive young cop who stumbles into his magical abilities. Yoon So-yi plays his love interest and comedic straight woman. They’re good together, but the film drags out the courtship a little long. Possibly because it’s paced so well, actually. Some of Arahan‘s best elements work against the whole.
Ahn Sung-kee plays the wise mentor; he gives a good performance, but can’t overcome some of director Ryoo’s worst choices. As the villain, Jung Doo-hong makes almost no impression (again it’s probably Ryoo’s fault).
Arahan is fun but doesn’t have any of its implied substance.
Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan; written by Ryoo, Eun Ji-hie and Yu Seon-dong; director of photography, Lee Jun-gyu; edited by Nam Na-yeong; music by Han Jae-kwon; produced by Lee Chun-yeong; released by Cinema Service.
Starring Ryu Seung-beom (Sang-hwan), Yoon So-yi (Wi-jin), Ahn Sung-kee (Ja-woon), Yun Ju-sang (Mu-woon), Kim Ji-yeong (Banya), Kim Yeong-in (Yuk Bong), Baek Chan-gi (Sul Woon) and Jung Doo-hong (Heuk-woon).