Stars Line up for Chuseok Battle
Sep 18, 2018
- Writerby Pierce Conran
Busy Holiday Season Leaves Viewers Spoilt for Choice
With the ink still warm in the record books for this summer’s box office, the Korean film industry is heading straight back into action for one of the busiest Chuseok holiday seasons of recent memory. Five star-driven titles will vie for glory on the charts as families around the country gather for the festivities.
Chuseok, Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday, is one of the two biggest annual celebrations in the country, along with the Lunar New Year. This year, the holiday will take place from Sunday, September 23 to Tuesday 25, with Wednesday threw in as another day off by the government. In addition, National Foundation Day and Hangeul Proclamation Day will fall on Wednesday, October 3 and Tuesday, October 9, giving fall releases plenty of opportunities to draw in big crowds in 2018.
Among this fall’s five top titles are a new showdown between HYUN Bin and ZO In-sung, who went head to head during the Lunar New Year holiday in 2017 with Confidential Assignment and The King, the latest Don LEE vehicle, last year’s Chuseok champ with THE OUTLAWS, the final entry in a period drama trilogy and South Korea’s first ever period creature feature.
Monstrum - KIM Myung-min
Hoping to get a jump start on the holiday is HUH Jong-ho’s third feature Monstrum. Billed as Korea’s first ever period creature feature, the action-drama takes place during the Joseon Era against the background of a power struggle between the King and his prime minister, who attempts to weaken his reign by spreading rumors of a dangerous creature in the mountains. But when an ex-general is brought in to investigate the claims, it is discovered that there may be more credence to the tales that originally thought.
A reliable presence on screens for almost two decades, KIM, who plays the retired general, has led several films to box office success, including the disaster dramas Deranged (2012) and Pandora (2016) while also heading the popular period investigative action-comedy Detective K series, which has spawned three installments from 2011 until this year. KIM In-kwon (The Tower, 2012) features as his right-hand man, LEE Hye-ri of Kpop act Girl’s Day plays his daughter and CHOI Woo-shik (Okja, 2017) plays a royal officer who bands with them, while LEE Gyoung-young (The Battleship Island, 2017) is the scheming prime minister and PARK Sung-woong (also in The Great Battle this month), plays the prime minister’s evil captain.
FENGSHUI - CHO Seung-woo
This new period title ends an informal Joseon Era trilogy that began with HAN Jae-rim’s The Face Reader, a Chuseok release in 2013 and continued with the romantic comedy The Princess and the Matchmaker earlier this year. Produced by Jupiter Film, the thematic cycle featured stories inspired by the traditional practices of fortune-telling. To that end, FENGSHUI is a Royal court succession drama centered around the all-important placement of a burial site, hence the title. Several factions come head to head in the Joseon Era as they try to take control of a propitious burial site, which will ensure the identity of the dynasty’s next two kings.
CHO Seung-woo, who initially made a name for himself in IM Kwon-taek’s Chunhyang (2000) and CHUNG Yoon-chul’s Marathon (2005), leads this tense new king’s court drama as a real geomancer. The actor recently made waves alongside LEE Byung-hun in the hit thriller Inside Men (2015) and with BAE Doo-na in the popular TV series Stranger, which was distributed globally by Netflix. FENGSHUI is notable for being the first big budget film to be produced by distributor Megabox Plus M.
THE NEGOTIATION - SON Ye-jin & HYUN Bin
The latest work from hit-making company JK Film, hostage thriller THE NEGOTIATION combines two of the country’s most popular stars: SON Ye-jin and HYUN Bin. From new filmmaker LEE Jong-seok, the thriller comes from the company behind Haeundae (2009), Ode to My Father (2014), The Himalayas (2015) and Confidential Assignment (2017).
SON plays Chae-yoon, an ace hostage negotiator who is called to the scene when her supervisor is taken hostage. She must engage in a tense game with the vicious hostage-taker Tae-gu (HYUN), whose motivations she’s having difficulties to ascertain.
Long known for the melodramatic fare, SON has convincingly expanded her repertoire over the last few years, headlining the period swashbuckler The Pirates (2014) and the critically acclaimed thriller The Truth Beneath (2016), She most recently had a hit with the romantic fantasy drama Be With You, co-starring SO Ji-sub. HYUN Bin has delivered a steady stream of hits of late, which have included conman thriller The Swindlers (2017), the JK Film spy action-comedy Confidential Assignment and period action drama The Fatal Encounter (2014).
The Great Battle - ZO In-sung
Reportedly the year’s most expensive film, period siege epic The Great Battle is the ambitious third feature of KIM Kwang-sik, returning to theaters after the gangster romcom My Dear Desperado (2010) and the media thriller Tabloid Truth (2014). With dazzling effects and plenty of forwarding momentum, this latest period war film takes pages out of Hollywood hits such as 300 and The Lord of the Rings.
Set in the year 645 AD, The Great Battle focuses on the real siege of the Ansi Fortress, which held out for 88 days when it was besieged by the military forces of the Tang Empire. General Yang (played by ZO) leads his small loyal forces against an overwhelming larger foreign invader, while also trying to fend off an assassination attempt from home.
ZO scored a hit during the Lunar New Year holiday last year with HAN Jae-rim’s prosecutor drama The King (2017). Yet, The Great Battle is only his second film in ten years, owing to an extended absence following A Frozen Flower (2008) when he enlisted for his military service. Complementing ZO on screen are TV star NAM Joo-hyuk in his film debut, AOA member Seol-hyun, BAE Sung-woo (ZO’s co-star in The King), UM Tae-goo (The Age of Shadows, 2016) and PARK Sung-woong (New World, 2013).
THE SOUL-MATE - Don LEE (aka MA Dong-seok)
High concept action-comedy THE SOUL-MATE features another burly comic turn from Don LEE (aka MA Dong-seok), who is hot off the success of last Chuseok’s top-selling film, the crime drama THE OUTLAWS (2017), as well as this summer’s box office champ Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days. Also riding high is co-star KIM Young-kwang, who is currently in theaters with the hit romantic drama On Your Wedding Day.
LEE plays Jang-soo, a judo gym owner with a slippery moral code. That is until he meets Tae-jin, the ghost of a righteous police officer who pulls Jang-soo into a case. THE SOUL-MATE comes from the mind of director JO Won-hee, who previously made the hospital-set chamber revenge thriller Enemy at the Dead End (2010). JO’s latest film, which plays up the fantastical and comedy factors, will be the last of this year’s Chuseok releases, as it opens on September 26, when the holidays begin to wind down.