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Rampant
 
 
   Director: Kim Sung Hoon
   Writer: Hwang Jo Yoon   
 
   Main Cast:
   Hyun Bin - Prince Lee Chung
   Jang Dong Gun - War Minister Kim Ja Joong
       
   Supporting Cast:
   Kim Eui Sung - King Lee Jo - Joseon King
   Jung Man Shik - Hak Soo - Lee Chung's bodyguard/attendant
   Jo Woo Jin - Park Eul Ryung - leader of the partisans fighting the zombies
   Lee Sun Bin - Deok Hee - an archer and one of the partisans
   Jo Dal Hwan - Monk Dae Gil - a Buddhist monk who is also a partisan
   Kim Tae Woo - Crown Prince Lee Young
 
 
 

Rampant takes the popular zombie movie genre to the Joseon era against a back drop of political intrigue. It was the second collaboration between star Hyun Bin and director Kim Sung Hoon after their hit 'Confidential Assignment.'


The Story

The movie starts with the Joseon Crown Prince plotting to repel the Qing, even though his father the King has a tributary relationship with the Qing Court. As part of the plan, the Crown Prince plans to purchase long guns from some Europeans (who sound as if they are speaking Dutch). The War Minister Kim Ja Joon (Jang Dong Gun) finds out about the plan and relays it to the king, framing it as a rebellion. When confronted about it, the Crown Prince commits suicide so that his men will be spared their lives.

 

The Joseon army then go to confront the Europeans instead. In addition to the guns, the Europeans have brought a night demon aka zombie with them. In the battle, this zombie ends up infecting a Joseon soldier who then returns home to infect his entire village.

 

Into this, the Crown Prince’s younger brother Lee Chung (Hyun Bin) arrives back in Joseon along with his eunuch. The Crown Prince had written to Lee Chung asking him to take the Crown Princess who is pregnant to Qing and keep them safe. Lee Chung was not in the succession to the throne, but his reappearance in Joseon after the death of his brother brings speculation that he was going to try to become the heir to the throne.

 

When Lee Chung lands in Joseon, instead of a proper welcoming party, he finds a deserted village where he is attacked by assassins sent by War Minister Kim and his cohorts who are actually planning a coup of their own. Their battle soon attracts infected zombie villagers who attack them all. Lee Chung and his man are saved by a group of partisans who had been working to save their village and get help from the Joseon court. The assassins are all eaten except for one assassin who survives being bitten long enough to make his way back to court.

 

The partisans ask Lee Chung to become the Crown Prince to take over the country one day, but Lee Chung refuses saying that it was too much trouble, and he was there just for the Crown Princess. Still, the partisans accompany Lee Chung to the Joseon since he has agreed to ask for forces to help defeat the zombies.

 

Unfortunately, at court, War Minister Kim has arranged for the King to be infected. When Lee Chung makes his request, he is ultimately refused and the partisans accompanying him put in prison. Lee Chung and the Crown Princess are both ordered to a feast in honor of some Qing envoys. The King turns into a zombie at the feast, and the War Minister unleashes zombies on the court in order to get rid of the royals and the Qing envoys so that he could take the Joseon crown himself.

 

Things don’t quite go to plan for the ministers who planned the coup, especially since zombies really can’t be controlled.

 

In all this, Lee Chung is convinced to come to the rescue of his people and learns to become their leader.

 


The Review

This movie has a very dark palette. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that the zombies are active at night, so there are a lot of night scenes with torches and other things burning for light sources. However, even the daytime scenes have mostly dark, muted colors, from the sets to the clothing of both court officials and nobles to the villagers and soldiers. This means that when there are scenes that are lit up, it makes for even more contrast.

 

Also, in a not very subtle use of color, Lee Chung starts out in dark clothing when he first comes back to Joseon, but as he goes to the royal court, he is the only one to wear entirely white clothing which helps to make him stand out in stark contrast to the dark palette. His white clothing is properly ornate so as not to be confused with funereal clothes (the traditional color of Korean funerals is white actually rather than black), but it also serves to reinforce the idea of death being every where. The other good guys, including the Crown Princess, also wear lighter color clothing, btw, and that is one of the ways to distinguish the good guys from the bad in the fight scenes.

 

Hyun Bin seems to have a lot of fun with his role in this movie. As the younger prince who has been living in royal comfort at the Qing Court flirting with the Qing women and indulging in Qing luxuries, he does not long for royal power, seeing that as burdensome instead. With no pretensions to power, he also feels no need to be polite or respectful to anyone other than the King. As such, he has some quips and quick comebacks to various characters who keep trying to assign ambitions to him that he doesn’t have. And no compunctions about doing what he thinks he wants/needs to do.

 

He also continued to cement his role as an action star in this movie as he single-handedly fends off hordes of zombies.  The fight scenes are very good and with a touch of Henry V in some of its sentiment against a superior force in numbers.

 

There is minimal romance in this movie. Lee Chung tries to flirt awkwardly with a pretty partisan girl. If anything, there is the tragic romance of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess which we do not see any of since the Crown Prince kills himself early in the movie.

 

The acting is solid from the cast, and given that there are strong touches of bromance throughout this movie, you don’t really miss the romance. The movie manages to pull some real emotions out, thanks to the veteran cast, mostly towards the end of the drama as sacrifices are made for the sake of the country and the people.

 

I rather enjoyed the writing and the dialogue in the movie, though my favorite lines are not said by Lee Chung. Rather, it’s said by the partisan leader Park Eul Ryung (played by Jo Woo Jin) as he once again tries to convince Lee Chung that he should become the new Joseon king. I translated their dialogue because I loved it so much.

 

Park Eul Ryung: Will you go to the country of Qing? I believe that you will return. Please make sure you return. This palace and this country of Joseon, I believe that you will build them both back up again.
Lee Chung: I said that I didn’t want to! Why should I?!
PER: You didn’t want to. You didn’t want to. You kept saying that even as you came to this point.
Lee Chung: I didn’t come here to be a king. It’s just you all were in such a pitiful state. That’s the only reason I led you here. That’s all.
PER: Nobody at all felt sorry for us. Nobody even put any effort in to save our lives. Nobody was even willing to listen to a thing we said. But, you, Prince, did so. Isn’t that what a king is? Now that this servant has finally met a true king, I have no regrets about dying.
Lee Chung: Damn you.

 

It’s probably not the best zombie movie around nor the best sageuk, real or fusion, either. However, it’s a pretty compelling watch once you get accustomed to the palette and start being able to figure out who is who. The zombie scenes range from disturbing to familiar if you’ve already watched any other zombie movies, but they create a moody, tense atmosphere with the combination of political intrigue and infectious disease that the bad guys keep thinking they can use it without fully understanding what it is. In 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, this hits a little too close to home.

 

The only thing that was kind of off-putting, which is true of pretty much every other zombie movie, has to do with how long it may take once bitten for the infection to manifest itself. There is some attempt made at an explanation for the variability, namely, how closely to a major vessel one was actually bitten, but that is all nonsense, and really, the zombification happens when it's most convenient for the plot.

 

Having said that, it was a fun watch, and one that I don't mind re-watching.

 

The Ratings

Plot/Story                        7

Acting/Cast                     8

Production Value            8

Re-watch Value               8

 

 

The Movie Trailer

 

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Thanks @stroppyse for the wonderful review. Here is my first attempt.

_____

 

Of the international array of undeads, the Korean zombie is the scariest:

  • Korean zombies – run fast and in hordes, most gory;
  • Western zombies e.g. Resident Evil – they shuffle and move slowly, there is usually time to escape unless they are in a group and blocking the exit;
  • Chinese zombies (jiang shi) – stretched out hands and hops forward on two feet, unable to move backwards, frequently gets stuck as a result;
  • Vampires – they can fly; and we love the handsome ones like Brad Pitt.

 

I digress. Back to Rampant.

 

The film starts with a Joseon soldier being bitten by a ‘night demon’ (zombie). The soldier returns to his home village. He turns in the night and first eats his child who was sleeping next to him, then his wife. Gruesome. The infection spreads from there.

 

Hyun Bin plays Lee Chung, Prince Ganglim. He returns from the Qing Dynasty where he has been living in exile, to fulfill his late brother, the Crown Prince’s request. Prince Ganglim starts out as a self-centered and flirtatious young man. His only desire was to bring the pregnant Crown Princess to safety in Qing. He later sees the corrupt Minister kill his father, the King, and his loyal servant. With the ‘night demons’ spreading in the Palace, the Crown Princess’s reluctance to leave the Palace and the rebel leaders’ sacrifice, he feels his responsibilities and steps up to become the leader needed to save his people.

 

Jang Dong-gun plays the Minister of War, Kim Ja-joon. He attempts to make use of the ‘night demon’ to steal the throne but is instead bitten himself. He is a villain through and through – he cut off his own hand to try to prevent the infection from spreading through his body – there are no redeeming qualities.

 

Generally, the film is entertaining although it lacks depth. The plot follows a similar line as "Kingdom" but falls short in making the audience feel for the protagonist, the villian, or the cause. Nevertheless, it is a well-made commercial film. And of course, there is Hyun Bin. The action scenes are good and he did most of his own stunts. If you like a thrill, Rampant is a good watch.

 

Ratings

Plot/Story                  7

Acting/Cast               8

Production Value      8

Re-watch Value        8

 

Rampant - Behind-the-scenes Action Video

 

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