Fight Film Friday: Geochilmaru

Posted: September 10, 2010 in fight film friday
Tags: ,


“The Showdown”

Korea, 2005

Genre: Action

86 minutes

Eight strangers from a martial arts website are brought together to challenge the mysterious Geochilmaru, one of the strongest fighters in Korea.

Based on an interesting premise that hits close to home in this internet age, Geochilmaru is a fairly decent ride exploring the basics of martial arts themed movies. Bringing together a variety of styles and personalities, the film is more of a study of martial artists than a narrative story. There is a distinct lack of polish to the production values, with generally poor camera work and lighting. The script and dialogue lack depth, but the actors do what they can with the lines given. Surprisingly, one of the selling points is that the director chose to use pure martial artists instead of seasoned actors for the roles. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue to begin with, but the non-actors still read better in this movie than several other martial arts films I could name with much bigger budgets. This is not to excuse the poor production of the movie, only to say that it did better than I would expect of a project with a low budget, no actors, and a boring script.

Technical issues aside, the film is interesting for its subject matter, with memorable and engaging characters most likely based on the performers themselves. Centered around a popular martial arts website, the fighters are brought together and speak face to face for the first time. Exploring the ideas of online- compared to real-world personas, deceiving appearances, and the motivations for pursuing martial arts, Geochilmaru had a great deal of potential in expanding the genre. However, instead of rising to the challenge and creating something new, the film follows the same tropes of shoddy fight movies that came before it. Speaking out on the inferiority of “combat sports” compared to “true martial arts” and “practitioners over styles,” it’s like looking at an outdated concept film on the subject of codified violence. Culturally, I suppose I’m not really surprised that the Japanese Karate stylist is easily the weakest and most pathetic character in the movie, and that national pride trumps empirical evidence. There are some genuinely fun moments littered throughout, but overall the film is a giant eye-roll for experienced fight fans.

The action scenes themselves have about as much effort put into them as anything else in the movie, but they are held back by a lack of planning and seasoned stunt people. While all the performers are certainly talented in their respective fields, almost none of these transfer well into cinematic fight choreography. The fights are mostly clumsy and slow, relying more on camera tricks to sell impact than strong performances on screen. Like the rest of the film, they started off with a neat concept, but failed to develop it further with the necessary steps and specialists. Geochilmaru can be pretty fun if you have a passing interest in style-on-style match-ups, but for casual viewers this movie is a rental at best.

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