Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do

I've only ever watched one Bruce Lee movie and that was The Way of the Dragon. You would think that a guy like me would be a bit more well-versed on Bruce Lee's movies, but I am not. Oddly enough, the list of martial arts films I've seen is very short. 

I'm not sure if this film counts as one, either. This movie certainly does not feature Bruce Lee since it was made in 2004, but it does channel a little bit of that Bruce Lee ethos.

That being said, this movie isn't one you watch because you want to see a lot of fight scenes. There are certainly fight scenes, but this is scarcely an action film. If anything, this film is more in the vein of The Karate Kid then it is The Way of the Dragon, although that description isn't entirely accurate, either. 

This film takes place in 1978 is Seoul, South Korea, and follows a quiet main character as he struggles to survive the tough high school teachers and the bullies that the teachers seem to encourage. Not a single American student alive today could have been able to survive that. At least that's what many of the school shootings that have been all the rage for two decades seem to suggest. 

Most folks would have lost it like Gomer in Full Metal Jacket... and to an extent that seems almost understandable. Korean teachers in the 70's were brutal fucks. Pure and simple. It just wasn't right. And the bullies were even worse. Of course, people being dickheads isn't solved by homicide since basically everyone alive is part-dickhead. 

Hyun-soo, our quiet hero of this film, bends only so far to the injustices of the school grounds until things just go too far. Then Hyun-soo teaches himself to fight back using the teachings of Bruce Lee. 

Kwon Sang-woo portrays Hyun-soo and you might just recognize him from his role in More Than Blue. You certainly wouldn't think it from that movie and even most of The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do, but Kwon-Sang-woo can kick some serious ass. Bruce Lee would have been proud. 

This being a Korean film (as well as one of those universal coming-of-age stories), there's certainly a bit of romance blossoming, too. However, the romance isn't the corny feelgood type that plagues a lot of romances these days. It's not too dramatic, either. Instead the romance is handled with a touch of realism, much like the rest of the movie. 

I enjoyed this movie a lot and it really does have something for everybody. You could do a lot worse than to watch it. 

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