Musa: The Warrior (2001)

Rating: B

Dir: Kim Sung-su
Star: Jung Woo-sung, Ahn Sung-ki, Joo Jin-mo, Zhang Zi-yi

A 14th century Korean diplomatic mission to the Ming Emperor is betrayed and dumped in the middle of a desert, but after they rescue a Ming noble, Princess Furong (Zhang), from a Mongol horde, they see a chance to redeem themselves. However, the Mongols want the woman back: so begins a harsh forced march across enemy territory, leading to a final stand in an abandoned fortress. This is epic stuff, with a huge budget (by Korean standards at least, around US$7m – which is only about the same as Boogeyman…) and looks gorgeous, capturing the bloody chaos of battle perfectly, albeit at the cost of some coherence. [Hey, when two sets of unkempt Asiatic warriors are hitting each other with swords, you tell them apart…]

Fortunately, the characters are nicely defined, though I kept waiting for someone called “Musa” to turn up. Yeo-sol (Jung), a slave freed by his dying master early on, is the hero, though despised by General Choi Jung (Joo). However, it slowly becomes clear that Choi leads the force in name only; the real lynchpin is master archer Jin-Lib (Ahn). Less interesting is Furong, who is irritatingly whiny; do not expect ass-kicking from Zhang here. Indeed, she barely gets out of her cart, which seems a waste of her talents. In the end, though, this is a film about men, doing men things, largely involving sharp, pointy objects. As such, it’s a damn fine piece of work.