Thanks to Dream of a Warrior, Leon Lai now
has the dubious distinction of being the biggest Hong
Kong celebrity to star in the worst non-HK film out
of the region. Directed by Park Hee-Joon, Dream
of Warrior is an ill-conceived combination of
action, fantasy and romance which - if it didn't
drive audiences out of the theater screaming - should
have set a record for audience refund requests.
Lai stars (via ADR dubbing)
as a Korean cop who lives in a near-future world.
He's haunted by dreams of a mysterious beauty who
appears to be threatened by a CGI tentacle. Then,
he's ordered by his kindly superior officer to meet
with a Dr. Jang. The good doctor has perfected a time-travel
device which allows the user to visit a previous life.
Unfortunately, the prototype was destroyed by an evil
cult leader, whereupon Jang's daughter Nam-Hong (Park
Eun-Hye) was lost in some unknown pocket of space.
He feels that Lai has the correct "brainwave"
to sync with the machine, or some other sort of pseudo-scientific
mumbo jumbo. Lai agrees, not only because he's been
ordered to, but also because Nam-Hong happens to be
the spitting image of his mystery dream beauty.
At this point, Dream
of a Warrior seems silly, but atmospherically
sound. The opening action scene is a typical chase-sequence
with flashes of energetic action, as Lai chases an
unnamed female criminal (Lee Na-Young). Dialogue is
kept to a minimum, and atmosphere and pacing seem
paramount. Then...IT ALL GOES TO HELL! More specifically,
the production takes a nosedive of epic proportions.
A likely viewer reaction could be the onset of hives
or hysterical weeping.
Lai gets put into the
time machine (courtesy of fake-looking CGI) and gets
sent to a previous life. That previous life is Dean,
a lower-class warrior in a strange pseudo-futuristic
society known as Dilmoon. The land of Dilmoon is beset
by an evil other known as Paxtus. The Dilmoon senate
feels that they need a group of warriors to take out
Paxtus, so they recruit warriors through a Mortal
Kombat-like fighting tourney. Dean is one of these
warriors, but his situation is tricky. It seems he
shares a forbidden love with Princess Rose (also Park
Eun-Hye), but she's due to wed the shifty General
Shanril (Yoon Tae-Young). Tensions are at a high,
but the group must still go after Paxtus, which is
when your brain may begin to atrophy.
Everything that occurs
in the fantastical world of Dilmoon is incredibly
laughable in a "this is friggin' awful"
sort of way. The production design and costumes are
horrible, as it seems like B-grade science fiction
gone bad. Think Glen A. Larson's "Buck Rogers
in the 25th Century" (the seventies Gil Gerard
version) mixed with Krull and you'll get a
general idea of what the world of Dilmoon looks like.
Adding to that are the bad special effects, which
look ripped from bad Japanese science fiction. If
a man in a rubber suit had invaded Dream of a Warrior,
it could only have improved the movie.
But, the film's downfall
is not its awful visual design. Nor is it the cheesy,
canned script, which possesses the inspired creativity
of an infomercial. And, it's not the lousy acting,
which is actually helped by the presence of Leon Lai.
No, the biggest problem with Dream of a Warrior is the fact that it's directed and edited like crap.
Director Park Hee-Joon loads the film with incredibly
bad pacing, terrible scene construction, and just
laughable visual and audio images. Every "romantic"
moment in the film is punctuated by an unbearably
syrupy musical swell, and the dramatic moments are
just terrible. You know you're being jerked around
when the director's idea of an emotional moment is
to flash back to scenes which happened less than ten
minutes ago. And since those scenes weren't all that
interesting, the effect is boredom/annoyance multiplied.
If this reviewer could
audibly sigh through typing, he would. Dream of
a Warrior is just one incredibly bad film. If
this is your first Korean Cinema experience then I
must urge you to try another film, as this one IS
NOT representative of what Korean film can offer.
This is just a bad idea further compounded by bad
execution. It would be incredibly kind and magnanimous
to admister a severe beating to those responsible
for this film. They deserve a far worse punishment,
like being forced to watch Dream of a Warrior for seventy-two straight hours. (Kozo 2002)