The 2011 Busan International Film Festival had a lot of gems in it’s line-up. One of the top picks at the festival was Kim Han-Min’s ARROW, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON (최종병기 활). Also, known as WAR OF THE ARROWS, this film was highly praised and almost impossible to get into. Since I missed it at the festival, I was very happy when it was released on DVD. Of course, I’d heard what the premise of the film was but I was still unclear on what to expect. In case you’re in the same boat, let me fill you in.
ARROW, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON is set during the Choseon Dynasty and begins as the story of a boy and his sister. Their father is accused of being a traitor to the throne during the King Injo Revolt and is subsequently executed. Before his execution he makes his teenaged son, Na-Mi, promise to always protect his younger sister, Ja-In , from harm. It’s a promise the boy takes to heart and after escaping death themselves the two children go to an ally of their father’s and are raised in hiding. During this time Na-Mi (Park Hae-Il) grows and is seen as a person who is constantly begrudging his past and who has no real goals or future. Unbeknownst to everyone he has secretly taught himself to become a master of the bow and arrow. He’s never had to use the skill past hunting but, on his sister’s wedding day, their village is attacked by the Chung Dynasty of China. His sister (Moon Chae-Won) and her new husband (Kim Moo-yeol) are both taken captive by soldiers and Na-Mi arrives to late to stop them. Sticking to his promise to protect her Na-Mi uses his bow and arrow to bring down the enemy and find her before it’s too late.
Sometimes when watching action films I feel that they stray from the point. It’s so easy to get caught up in the action that the actual story can get put on the back burner. That was not the case with ARROW, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON. While watching this movie I feel it had all of the elements you would expect from an action drama, but the reasons driving the protagonists were always strong and clear. I was even expecting fancy martial arts sequences and wire work but they were absent. It really all came down to the man’s strength being his promise and his arrow. He was strong but he wasn’t invincible and he showed his fear as much as his courage. Also, the female lead wasn’t left as just a damsel in distress. Yes, she was in trouble, but she defended herself and held her own to the best of her abilities, which was quite a refreshing thing to see. While I felt the suspense and the pain of the characters, on the other hand, I also felt that without these some parts of the movie could’ve fallen a bit flat. Some scenes went on a bit long and, in my opinion, one or two could have been edited out completely. These are minor points and overall, it’s a solid, good film that I definitely recommend renting.