Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 3rd, 2005
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: May 30th, 2005
Approximate running time: 121 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital Stereo Koeran
DVD Release: Optimum Asia
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £19.99
“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 Windfollows 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.
Optimum Asia presents Fighter in the Wind in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This transfer boasts a solid color palette and flesh tones look natural throughout. Black levels remain constant and there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compression and some mild edge enhancement. Overall this is a strong transfer with its biggest flaw being issues with ghosting that is most noticeable during the films action sequences.
This film’s is presented in its original Korean language track which also includes some Japanese and English dialog spoken throughout the film. This DVD comes with two different audio mixes a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital stereo audio track. Both tracks are in great shape and free of any hiss or distortion. Dialog comes through crystal clear and the action sequences exploit all the speakers to their fullest potential. The Dolby Digital 5.1 is the better of the two tracks as it offers a more robust sonic field that engrosses the viewer in the experience. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
Extras include the film’s original trailer as well as trailers for other Optimum Asia releases like Azumi, Azumi 2, Anahan, The Doll Master and Sky High. Other extras include a music video that contains images and music form the film and a making of documentary “Action Dairy of a Martial Arts Director” that runs about runs about seventeen minutes in length. This documentary discusses the hardships making this low budget film and it also contains behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras four interviews with cast and crew which on average run in between seven and ten minutes in length each. All the cast and crew are a joy to listen to as they talk their experiences working on this film. Overall Optimum Asia gives Fighter in the Wind a average DVD release that comes with a wealth extras that are insightful and always informative.