Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Rating: 7 Betrayals
After going to war with China, three Korean men, survivors of a bloody last battle, hole up in an abandoned Inn and at last turn on eachother in the final showdown.
The fight scenes are just fine and so is the acting, but you really need to be a fan of, or at least have an understanding of, Korean culture and the class lines that separate them worse than a lot of Japanese culturisms. The two main characters, I called them the Noble and the Commoner, are constantly at eachothers throats – in the beginning in order to survive the aftermath of battle and a snowstorm, but soon succumb to class line tensions that lead them to practically kill eachother before the Chinese ever get a chance to. And the third guy, I called him Farmer (or Deserter), switches allegiances fast enough to make my head spin sure, but the movie also supplied him with some manner of understood reasoning and empathy, when they present scenes where the Farmer is hauled away for failing to pay over-taxes to a Lord. His circumstances don’t cancel out his bad behavior at the Inn though.
So there was a big ole battle out there in the snowstorm, that Noble and Commoner and Farmer all lost one way or another, and they have to make their way through hardship and hunting to this abandoned Inn. There the tension reaches the breaking point, as the long sordid history between Noble and Commoner is revealed. Noble appears to come off as a brat, laden down with jewelry and a devil-may-care attitude, blithely unaware of his privileges or his friends envy of them. And Commoner is working, so very very diligently, at becoming the best bought Nobleman he can be. But the fact that he had to buy and earn his way into the nobility, means he’s forever stuck there and stigmatized by it. And when he’s ordered, by his clan Lord no less, to sacrifice Noble for the clans ambitions, he does it. Doesn’t mean his heart likes it of course.
It is a Korean movie, so the acting is very…fraught and tense, huge emotions bottled into short bursts of rage and tears, and of course, there is no happy ending for anyone. The martial arts are as always astounding, though I would have liked more kicking of enemy assets, not eachothers. Beautifully shot and masterfully told, The Showdown gets a rating of 7 Betrayals.