Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 3rd, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: South Korea, August 6th, 2004
Director: Yun-ho Yang
Writer: Yun-ho Yang
Cast: Dong-kun Yang, Aya Hirayama, Masaya Kato, Tae-woo Jeong, Doo-hong Jung
DVD released: April 6th, 2010
Approximate running time: 121 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Korean
DVD Release: Cinema Epoch
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
“There is no shame in poverty. He who gives his utmost for his goal is a noble person.” – Choi Baedal (Oyama Masutatsu)
Fighter in the Wind follows the high and lows of legendary Korean martial artist Choi Baedal turbulent life. The film begins at the beginning of World War 2 and Korea is currently under the occupation of imperial Japan. Choi (Yang Dong-geun) decides to leave Korea and he travel to Japan to become a pilot. Once in Japan he soon faces hardships worse then when he was in Korea and because of his Korean heritage he is treated worse then a god by the Japanese. After the war Choi reunites with an old friend Beom-su who agrees to teach Choi martial arts. The locale Yakuza extort and bully the locales except Beom-su who stands up to their tyranny. After many attempts to kill Beom-su the Yakuza finally succeed which sends Choi into rage that leads to his self exile into the wilderness to practice martial arts. Upon his return Choi Baedal announces to the world that will now be know as Oyama Masutatsu. After two years of hardcore martial arts Oyama challenges dojo after dojo and their masters’ leading to his greatest challenge to date a showdown against Japans greatest martial artists.
Fighter in the Wind tells the life story of Oyama Masutatsu and if at times while watching you sense a feeling a Déjà Vu coming on this might be because in the mid-1970’s cult Japanese film icon Sonny Chiba portrayed Oyama Masutatsu in a trilogy of films (Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter and Karate for Life). While many elements from the series of films that starred Sonny Chiba have been carried over for this retelling of Oyama life there is plenty new information that is revealed that was absent form these previous films. Another major difference between the two is that Sonny Chiba played Oyama as a larger then life persona while this gives a more realistic look that equally balances his triumphs and falls from grace. It is also because of this balance and Yang Dong-geun brilliant performance as Oyama that we are moved to great emotional depths that were not present in the films Sonny Chiba starred in. Yun-ho Yang beautifully recaptures the past with his documentary approach to this film. He also opts not to go the standard route when staging and filming the films martial arts sequences. Even though these fight scenes are shorter then your typical martial arts film they don’t lose any of their overall impact. The characters are well defined and the cast through out the films rises above the material elevating this moving drama into something more then just an action film. One part of the film that in many respects has become a standard in films made in Asia that deal with World War 2 is American soldiers raping the local women. These moments are the most difficult to stomach and never easy to watch. Fighter in the Wind has all the key elements that we have come to expect from martial arts films like exacting revenge and mind blowing martial arts sequences.
The themes explored in Fighter in the Wind and life of Oyama Masutatsu have been committed to film many times before, still Fighter in the Wind offers a drastically different viewpoint of the mythical hero known as Oyama Masutatsu that is unflinching in its unwillingness to compromise for the sake of making entertainment for entertainments sake, highly recommended.
Cinema Epoch presents Fighter in the Wind in a anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has not been flagged for progressive playback. Color and flesh tones look accurate. Black levels look strong and details look crisp throughout. Even though this transfer is interlaced the image remains stable with no excessive issues with ghosting. When compared to the region 2 DVD release from Optimum Asia which was a PAL to NTSC conversion, the transfer for this release from Cinema Epoch is superior to that transfer in every way.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Korean and removable English subtitles have been included. The audio is clean, clear and balanced, with the action sequences benefiting the most from this audio mix.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 32 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Korean with English subtitles), a music video (3 minutes 29 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Korean with English subtitles), a still gallery with music from the film playing in the background, a behind the scenes segment titled “Action Diary of a Martial Arts Director” (17 minutes 15 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Korean with English subtitles) and interviews with writer / director Yun-ho Yang (9 minutes 40 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Korean with English subtitles), actress Aya Hirayama (10 minutes 27 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Korean with English subtitles), actors Dong-kun Yang (7 minutes 47 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Korean with English subtitles) and Masaya Kato (6 minutes 40 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Korean with English subtitles). The “Action Diary of a Martial Arts Director” segment discusses the hardships making this low budget film and it also contains behind the scenes footage. All the cast and crew are a joy to listen to as they talk their experiences working on this film. Overall Fighter in the Wind gets a strong DVD release from Cinema Epoch.