Blades of Blood (2010)
By: Devon B. on November 11, 2011  | 
DVD
Icon | Region A, B & C | 2.35:1, 1080p | Korean DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | 108 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Lee Joon-Ik
Starring: Seong-hyeon Baek, Seung-won Cha, Kim Chang-Wan, Ji-hye Han
Screenplay: Seok-Hwan Choi, Cheol-Hyeon Jo, Oh Seung-Hyeon
Country: South Korea
External Links
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Asian period pieces almost always have one thing going for them: A bedazzling array of silly hats. I sometimes think that maybe the whole reason we get samurai movies is because Japan wants to show off the ridiculous headwear of centuries past, and movies like A Chinese Ghost Story have shown us that Japan wasn't the only country into bizarre hats. It's nice to see that South Korea also wanted to showcase its humorous hat heritage to the world, and has come up with Blades of Blood so we can all bask in the hilarity of different funny Asian hats of yore.

The title Blades of Blood is a bit misleading. There are blades, and they do occasionally get bloody, but this is more of a political pot-boiler than a full on fighting film. The title of the graphic novel the movie's based on is Like the Moon Escaping From the Clouds, which is a much more suitable arty farty title.

The storyline is a bit confusing at first, but essentially what's going on is Japanese troops appear to be about to enter Korea's border. There' s a large disagreement over to how to handle the situation, and one man, Lee Mong-Hak, begins conspiring to do what he thinks is best, which includes rebelling against Korea's King. Meanwhile our hero Gyeon-Ja is having a tough time because he's a bastard. I mean that literally; his mother was a woman of ill repute. His father tries to be supportive, but Gyeon-Ja is having none of it and acts like a metaphorical bastard as well. Unfortunately for Gyeon-Ja, when Lee arrives he kills Gyoen-Ja's father. Our hero immediately tries to avenge his father's death but he fails. He then meets up with a Zatoichi type who also disagrees with Lee's plans, though not for the same reason because I don't think Lee killed his father too, or if he did I missed that plot point. Eventually there's another fight.

Blades of Blood is a well made period piece with touches of light comedy. It might appeal to fans of Zatoichi and samurai films, but despite being very well done technically, I never found the proceedings that interesting. I did like that the "villain" is essentially someone who is doing what he thinks is right and his actions are not cruel or even hard to understand; he just feels the ends will justify his violent means. Speaking of violence, while there is some, don't get Blades of Blood because you want to see lots of swordplay. The movie certainly has a few impressive fight scenes, but it's a long time between drinks on that front.
Video
Blades of Blood has some sort of style thing going on early in the movie so that portions of the frame are hazy. This does not continue throughout the film. The movie looks vibrant and strong, and has rich colours. Grain is present but never intrusive, and the image often pops off the screen. There're only a few things that let the transfer down. The first is a bit of black crush. It may have been intentional for darker objects to disappear into the background, but it didn't always happen, so it's hard to say what was intended. Later in the movie, some skin tones take on an oversaturated hue, but I would say this is most likely due to the source elements. The main complaint I have, as the other two I'd easily give the benefit of the doubt on, is that the subs are burnt in, and to compound the matter there is some blocking around them. There is a little bit of blocking around other things, but I only ever really noticed it around the subs, and given everyone who doesn't speak Korean will be reading the subs it's not the sort of flaw that will be missed by even the most casual of viewers.
Audio
The audio is a Korean 5.1 DTS HD track, and it's a sword slicin', battle immersing corker...when there's actual fighting. There's a lot of talking in this movie, but when the sound has a chance to go off it goes off.
Extra Features
Nothing. The subs aren't even optional!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Blades of Blood is good to look at, and I wouldn't go so far as to call it dull, but overall the story lacks freshness. Because the story wasn't really anything new, I was left very, very focused on hats. The transfer here is pretty impressive, bar the rather annoying problem of imbedded subs, but with the only menu options being to play the film or to not play the film, it's a hard sell to say the disc is all it could be.

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