Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hero – review

Director: Kim Hong-Ik

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

Hero is a Korean movie that purports to be a teenage vampire flick that has a romance element, but don’t let thoughts of Twilight influence your expectations of this film. Whilst there is some creepy stalking, the vampires in this have fangs and drink blood and the baseline is that it is a teen orientated gentle comedy with vampires in it.

The film actually looks rather classy through its running time but I did – as I will highlight later – feel that it lost its way towards the end. The film begins with a man stumbling through a high rise construction rather drunkenly.

Han Ye-won as Lee Yoo-ri
He stops for a pee and, whilst emptying his bladder, notices something drip onto his head. He puts his hand up and, when drawing it back, sees blood. He looks upwards and sees a body with a ripped throat hanging over the edge of the building work. Up there a man watches in horror as a woman, Lee Yoo-ri (Han Ye-won), feeds on a third. She lifts her head and runs at the man, picks him up by the neck, throws him and attacks.

the good vampires
We see Sim-dan (Kim Hyeong-gyoo-I), or Dan to his friends, atop a building talking of loneliness. Cut back in time and he and his friend Eun-seok (Han Jeong-woo) are nerds and the subject of constant bullying by Cheol-seung (Kwak Min-ho). Eun-seok does seem to get the worst of it but they are pretty much set upon (by the teaching staff it would also appear). Also at the school is Mi-ah (Lee Da-in), who was Dan’s first love (they shared a bath 10 years before) but who seems oblivious to him. Dan illicitly films her and here we have the creepy stalker element that was mentioned.

stylish shot
Indeed, when he is filming her in school, he sees her take a phone call that clearly upsets her and follows her through the city. He does suffer however, his asthma causing him to struggle through the city. Mi-ah goes to a hotel and confronts a woman, who turns out to be the girlfriend of her seriously ill father (Jo Deok-ja, Thirst) who is seeing another man. All this is filmed from afar and then he follows her again, as she leaves, but his inhaler runs out and he collapses onto a street corner, gasping for breath.

blood bath
He hears a noise and sees a woman in an alley, apparently drunk and being sick. Men approach her and, seeing she is insensible, drag her off. He follows them and enters the construction site they drag her to. He is looking around when he spots her, she vomits (we see it is blood), and then attacks him – biting his neck. We then cut to him in a room somewhere, he has been placed in a bath of blood – she then feeds him her blood. We should note that the bath of blood was used for stylistic reasons – simply taking vampire blood (orally or intravenously ) is enough to turn in this.

bite marks
He awakens in his own room. The sunlight irritates him. He looks in the mirror and sees the bite marks on his neck and remembers what happened. He struggles to school (sunlight doesn’t kill but does make him feel ill), where he ends up with the nurse who at first suspects rabies and then says it is probably a result of excessive onerism. He actually begins to stand up to Cheol-seung but, unfortunately, Mi-ah discovers that he has taken the film of her.

awkward but sweet
She accuses him of being creepy stalker guy and actually suggests he should commit suicide. Due to her reaction he goes to the train station to kill himself. However a mental patient pushes a blind woman (Kim Ah-hyeon) onto the tracks. He saves her and is called a hero on TV – hence the name of the film, however this is the only overt act of heroism he indulges in. Mi-ah then realises, of course, that she loves him and the romance builds slowly, awkwardly but very sweetly. He still acts like crazy stalker guy – using his vampire powers to sit by her in bed (ala über-stalker Edward Cullen).

vampire disintegration
Lee Yoo-ri goes to the school, posing as a teacher, to teach Dan the ways of the vampire. They must drink blood – chicken blood can be a substitute but they need human blood. Fail to feed and his asthma will come back. The only way to kill a vampire is for another vampire to suck all their blood – not entirely true as we do see another vampire, weakened through a failed cure serum, who is stabbed in the heart by a silver cross and disintegrates. Exactly which part of this was the fatal blow is not clear – though it probably wasn’t the use of a cross as Lee Yoo-ri and her former lover (Son ho-young), who is also a teacher at the school, are/were both Christians and the cross does not bother them. We also note that the expressed killing method - sucking all the blood - does not lead to such disintegration (that we see).

bad vampire
The film moves along swimmingly, a gentle comedy that is genuinely funny because of the three young leads and their amusing and quirky characters. To this end the film was going to get a higher score than it ultimately received from me. However the ending was rushed and didn’t, for me, work too well. It turns out that the vampire who turned Lee Yoo-ri, whilst he was slaughtering Christians, was buried and not killed. Grave robbers release him and he enters the story – but that entry is fractured and his actions seem motiveless. There are aspects of this that I won’t actually spoil – as they are integral to the ending – but they left me cold and unsatisfied.

raiding blood packs
Up to that point I was enjoying the film and whilst it wasn’t a totally terrible end it lacked narrative and the score has dropped because of it. The cinematography was professional, the young actors were fun and produced quirky characters. All told, however, I’m holding this down to 6 out of 10.

At the time of review I couldn’t find an IMDb page, however there is a Hancinema page here.

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