November 5, 2018

Rampant: Fighting the Mob Mentality

Don't get sucked in by the tantalizing promotional material. Kim Sung-hoon's Rampant isn't a movie about demons or spirit possession by a long shot. It's a zombie movie, and a very traditional one at that. Infection is spread by biting. Conversion from human to zombie can take some time or be fairly quick. To kill a zombie, nothing is more effective than chopping off the head. True to form, the actual cause of the zombie epidemic is unclear and only ill-fated fools think they can use the disastrous outbreak to their political advantage. The one thing unique to this particular zombie flick is that it's in period dress for the Joseon Dynasty.

Which mean that we're dealing with kings and princes, royal courts and invading armies who wear some pretty fancy duds alongside the scrappily dressed peasants and bloodthirsty undead. Our hero is a reluctant one: the self-exiled Lee Chung (Hyun Bin), next in line for the crown but more concerned with getting in women's drawers than getting to sit on the throne — a relief to his dad, the king (Kim Eui-sung) — a gluttonous man-baby who has basically abdicated in favor of feasts and concubines. Respected by no one, the monarch is secretly being undermined by his scheming Minister of War (Jang Dong-gun) who probably would make a better leader. But divine right has sway with the masses so the master archer (Lee Sun-bin) and her patriotic pals are going to side with the royal blood despite many good reasons not to.

On paper, it sounds okay but Rampant never quite works for me. The hero's queeny sidekick (Jeong Man-sik) fails to amuse despite hitting all the tried-and-true notes; the principled brother (Kim Tae-woo) isn't around long enough to earn your respect or your sympathy. At best, Rampant registers as a timely political parable — when it comes to those suffering from a mob mentality, it's best to move on to a different neighborhood. You can't convince a zombie of anything! Reason is powerless with the brain dead so don't waste your breath, don't argue. Just run. Or fight. You can always fight.