‘Rampant’ is predictable Joseon-era superhero blockbuster

October 24, 2018

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) — “Rampant” has a promising premise — eerie zombies take over the streets of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), plunging the country into chaos. But it is a bland film that is marred by a predictable plot and cardboard characters.

Directed by Kim Sung-hoon of “Confidential Assignment” (2017), the new film has Hyun Bin, the star of the 2017 movie, as Lee Cheong. Lee is a Joseon prince and martial arts expert returning from captivity in the Chinese Qing Empire after the death of his crown prince brother.

The handsome womanizer with no desire to take the throne gradually changes over time and becomes a true king as he witnesses his people helplessly attacked by zombie-like creatures known as “Night Demons.” He chooses to fight for the people against the murderous creatures and an evil plot by the Minister of War Kim Ja-joon (played by Jang Dong-gun) to overthrow the country by taking advantage of the monsters.

A still from "Rampant" (Yonhap)

A still from “Rampant” (Yonhap)

The director’s efforts to take over the glory of the 2016 zombie hit “Train to Busan,” based on the fresh subject, worked only partially.

The film is full of original scenes that have not been seen in Korean films before. The sheer number of Night Demons in the traditional Korean clothing of “hanbok” swarming into the royal palace is frightening. Much to the satisfaction of fans of zombie movies, they are quick, strong and cruel, not to mention creepy. The movie also succeeded in giving audiences spectacular sword-fight sequences and some truly beautiful cinematography.

The problem is its relatively weak story. It has two main subplots — a political thriller revolving around Kim Ja-joon’s desire to seize power and a coming-of-age tale of Lee Cheong, an irresponsible prince who turns into a veritable hero.

A still from "Rampant" (Yonhap)

A still from “Rampant” (Yonhap)

The moral dilemma of Lee on which path to choose could have set a solid foundation to the second plot. After the first hour, however, the film falters and loses focus, racing toward the final encounter between the two men and a predictable conclusion.

With no emotions displayed for the characters, Lee feels like a superhero in typical Hollywood action blockbusters when he moves forward inside the palace slashing endless waves of demons without suffering any injuries. Kim is described as the absolute evil whose reason for fighting appears to be unclear.

A still from "Rampant" (Yonhap)

A still from “Rampant” (Yonhap)

Still, the film will have at least moderate box-office success as a popcorn movie due to its strong cast that includes the two top stars. Story aside, Hyun Bin’s brilliant performance in action sequences is one of the mainstays in the film.

“Rampant” opens in South Korean theaters Thursday and later in 19 other regions, including the United States, Germany, Australia and Hong Kong.

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