Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 5th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: South Korea, August 30th, 2004
Director: Seung-wan Ryoo
Writers: Ji-hie Eun, Seung-wan Ryoo, Seon-dong Yu
Cast: Seung-beom Ryu, So-yi Yoon, Sung-kee Ahn, Doo-hong Jung, Ju-sang Yun
DVD released: July 18th, 2005
Approximate running time: 114 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital Stereo Korean
DVD Release: Optimum Asia
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £19.99
Synopsis: There are seven masters who have to protect a key that unlocks Arahan which is the state enlightenment in which one has learned everything and there is nothing more to learn. Flash forward to present time and there are now five masters who are nearing old age and need to find new replacements to protect the key to Arahan. Eui Jin while confronting a purse snatcher accidentally unleashes her Chi on Sang-Hwan an officer of the law. When Sang-Hwan gets up virtually unharmed Eui Jin suddenly realizes that he isn’t like most human beings. She introduces Sang-Hwan to her father and the other four masters who after some hesitation take Sang-Hwan on as a student. Then without warning someone unleashes one of the fallen masters Heug Un who had been banished when his quest for power corrupted him. Now free and on the loose Heug Un tracks down each of the other masters until he finds the key that will bring him closer to Arahan. It is up to Eui Jin and Sang-Hwan to stop him before he obtains his goal because once he has obtained Arahan no one or nothing will ever be able to stop him.
Even though Arahan follows most of the martial arts genres conventions it is more then just you’re typical marital arts as is evident from the opening minutes of the film when Eui Jin who at the time is working at a convenient store chases after a purse snatcher as she jumps form roof top to roof top before finally running down the side a building. The overall marital arts style in Arahan is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s earlier films. The two leads are complete opposites with Eui Jin who is smart and drop dead gorgeous while Sang-Hwan looks awkward and he is clumsy in a Barney Fife way. These opposite personalities are what distances the two and as the tension builds their bond becomes closer.
The fight scenes are expertly executed and for the most part felt fresh and not just some rehash of something we have seen one thousand times. There are some really cool fight sequences with the films finally being the best one of the lot as it is a knock out drag out war that goes on for at least fifteen minutes. My only complainant about the direction of this film is the directors’ overuse of split screen during the films training sequences. The main selling point of the film is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is best to go into Arahan with an open mind since the bulk of the film is knee deep in elements of farce and fantasy. Ultimately Arahan is action packed thrill ride that never tries to cheat the viewer with smoke and mirrors instead as film it fully embraces the magic it unleashes, Recommended.
Optimum Asia presents Arahan in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors are prominent through out the films and overall they are vibrant and nicely saturated. Black levels are solid as they display an exceptional amount of detail in every frame. There is some minor edge enhancement, still nothing that ever becomes to distracting. The source print used is virtually flawless with the only flaw being some minor ghosting that is most noticeable during the films action sequences.
This release comes with one audio option the films original Korean language track that is presented in two different audio mixes a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital stereo. Both tracks are in great shape as the dialog is always crisp and the action sequences take full advantage of all the speakers. There are no problems with hiss or distortion. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is the better of the two tracks as it offers a fuller sound of then the Dolby Digital stereo mix. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included. Extras include the films original trailer and a collection of thirteen deleted scenes that run about twenty minutes in length.
These extras scenes are fun to watch, but add nothing more to the story. Other extras include a brief nine minute piece entitled “Beginning: The Changes to Martial Arts Films from 60’s to 70’s. This featurette discusses the rules of Kung Fu cinema and the evolution of the Kung Fu genre. Rounding out the extras is making of documentary entitled “Looking for Arahan” that runs about nineteen minutes in length. For the most part this documentary is just a collection of outtakes and behind the scenes clips that from time to time has some background chatter. Optimum Asia delivers the goods once again giving another modern day martial arts classic the red carpet treatment.