January 22, 2009

General's Son: Gaining Popularity by Kicking Japanese Butt

I'd like to pimp-slap the Foley artist who first introduced the smack of a bare hand on leather as the simulated sound for karate kicks and roundhouse punches. In General's Son, the perpetuation of this tradition pulls you out of a movie that should be more patriotic biopic than martial arts fantasy despite its numerous hand-to-hand combats. The subject-at-hand is Kim Doo-han (Park Sang-min), a real-life gangster-turned-activist who became a national hero after standing up to the Japs during occupation and acting as a Robin Hood to prostitutes. Furthering Kim's myth, director Im Kwon-taek attributes his hero with an aristocratic bloodline and a rear end that supposedly drives the other guys in prison crazy. (Here's a guy with broad appeal!) Adding to the movie's fabulist aspect is its sloppy disregard for period detail: Guys wearing half-cocked fedoras topping greaser ducktails face off in front of strip mall architecture. When it came out in 1990, General's Son was a blockbuster. You could say its immense success helped usher in the slick cinematic masterpieces which would follow in the nineties while acting as a clunky capstone for what preceded. But you don't need to since I just did.

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