We had the opportunity to watch many great films at the Busan International Film Festival. We have decided to release a new film review once a day, so make sure to keep checking back with us and see what film we are talking about!
Original Title: 마이 웨이 (Mai Wei)
Language:Korean, Japanese, German,
Russian, English, Mandarin
Genres:War, Drama. Historical
Main Cast:Jang Dong-gun
- Inspired by the true story of Korean Yang Kyoung-jong.
- With a budget of around 24 million USD, it’s hailed as the most expensive Korean film to date. However, it was considered a box office flop.
- Director Kang Je-kyu found success years back when he directed Korean war epic Taegukgi.
Taking place in Japanese-occupied South Korea, the story follows two boys, Kim Jun-shik and Hasegawa Tatsuo. In 1928, Jun-shik and his family work as farmers for the Hasegawa family, but both boys, despite differences in class and ethnicity, ignite a small spark in friendship because of their mutual love for running. As the boys turn older, their friendship gradually shifts into an intense rivalry that is reflected by the heated tensions between their two countries.
When the boys are teenagers, Jun-shik’s family is ousted from the Hasegawa home when Jun-shik’s father accidentally delivers a bomb to Tatsuo’s grandfather, a high ranking military official. To add to the tension between the two countries, Sohn Kee-chung, a Korean athlete, wins a marathon race against Japanese competitors, adding fuel to the flame.
Tensions are at an all-time high when they are adults. In 1938, both Jun-shik (portrayed by Korean actor Jang Dong-gun) and Tatsuo (portrayed by Japanese actor Odagiri Joe) aspire to compete in the All Japan Trials marathon. However Koreans are banned from all sporting events. Jun-shik works as a rickshaw runner and catches the attention of Sohn, who taunts Tatsuo and the other Japanese nationalists into letting Jun-shik compete. Jun-shik wins, however is disqualified for allegedly cheating, giving the win to Tatsuo. This ignites a riot, which Jun-shik and his friends get caught in, resulting in them into getting conscripted into the Imperial Army.
Jun-shik and Tatsuo reunite yet again on the Mongolian border in 1939, when Tatsuo is now a colonel who gets placed in charge of the unit Jun-shik and 100 other Koreans are in. Tatsuo is ruthless and is blinded by nationalism, shooting anyone who would run away from battle. Jun-shik is the only one who stands up to Tatsuo’s plan to use all the Koreans in a suicide mission against the invading Soviet force. For his actions, he is placed in a holding cell along with Shirai (Fan Bingbing), a Chinese sniper taken prisoner for shooting Japanese soldiers).
Jun-shik’s friends come to their rescue and go on the run. However, they and a number of Japanese soldiers (including Tatsuo) are captured by the Soviets and imprisoned at a POW camp. It’s at this point that Jun-shik and Tatsuo start to form an unusual bond that evolves into an unlikely friendship.
What awaits the two childhood friends-turned-enemies in this tail of brotherhood and war?
The Good, The Bad, and The Surprising
My Way stars two well-known faces in Asian cinema today. Korean star Jang Dong-gun has gained attention through his work in films such as The Promise (2005), Friend (2001), The Warrior’s Way (2010), and director Kang’s previous war epic Taegukgi. Not to be outshined by his co-star, Odagiri Joe has made his own place in Asian cinema for his work in Shinobi (2005), Azumi (2003), Tokyo Tower (2007), and as the titular hero in Kamen Rider Kuuga (2000). Needless to say, having them share the screen together is pure joy for us fans.
The film takes us on an interesting journey about friendship in the midst of insanity, hate, and war. The two leads have all the reason to fight each other; Jun-shik and his fellow countrymen are oppressed by Tatsuo and his. Their relationship in the greater part of the first half of the film is similar to that of one’s fist constantly in the other’s face.
When they become POWs at a Soviet base, both share the experiences of being tortured and forced into labor, leading up to the moment when Tatsuo is standing face to face with his own insanity in the form of a Soviet leader shooting soldiers fleeing from the battlefield. The prideful Tatsuo’s nationalism is also tested when he realizes the country he puts his life on the line for is doing nothing to rescue him and his fellow soldiers.
While the film does an excellent job at character development, especially for Odagiri Joe‘s character, the film’s war and action sequences may be a bit too chaotic for viewers to follow. The film has been knocked for it’s shoddy editing and it’s cheap-looking CG, making it look like director Kang is trying to follow in Michael Bay’s footsteps. Despite the Hollywood-esque cliche approach, believe me when I say it does not take away the enjoyment of the film.
I did feel that Shirai, Fan Bingbing’s character, was a bit unnecessary to the film. Her role in the film is that of a Chinese sniper who shoots down Japanese soldiers in revenge of the rape and murder of her family. She doesn’t really do anything as a supporting character to help develop any of the leads, but rather it felt she was added in to give the audience something pretty to look at.
Overall, My Way is nowhere near as powerful as director Kang’s previous war epic, Taegukgi. However, it is indeed a must-see for any fans of war films. The star power, provided by Jang Dong-gun and Odagiri Joe, is incredible, and their passionate acting is what drives the film.
Although, I honestly don’t know why it’s entitled My Way…
Watch this film if…
…want to see two of Asia’s veteran actors team up in a 24 million USD budgeted blockbuster, filled with so many explosions that Michael Bay would be proud.