“A handsome, sweeping period picture, a robust, earthy comedy” — Kevin Thomas, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Director: Lee Joon-ik
Screenplay: Jo Chul-hyun, Oh Seung-hyun
Cast: Jeong Jin-yeong, Lee Mun-shik, Ryoo Seung-ryong, Sun Woo-sun, Yoon Je-moon
Producers: Jo Chul-hyun, Oh Seung-hyun
Print Source: M-Line
Warfare in ancient Korea, like anywhere else at any other time, was a dark, dirty, dangerous matter — and, if a filmmaker is smart and/or crazy enough to go there, hilarious! The Korean kingdom of Silla has allied with the Chinese Tang Dynasty, which has visions of subjugating the entire peninsula. They’re up against the resolute kingdom of Goguryeo, and the prize in the coming conflict is no less than the great city of Pyongyang itself. Lords and nobles scheme and preen, entertaining visions of ever-greater power. Generals scowl and strategize, plotting out death and destruction. Officers bark and snarl, driving their troops into battle. And at the bottom of the totem pole are the multitude of soldiers, ordinary peasants with no say about the big picture, no stake in the outcome and no choice but to do all the dirty work. Fearsome clashes, subterfuge and treachery, the grim details of keeping a fighting force alive and in line, all come into play — and are played for maximum laughs!
Revisiting the world of his second feature film, 2003’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN A BATTLEFIELD, Lee Joon-ik has concocted a sequel that stands fine on its own and again dares to make a mockery of the mayhem and mischief that war unleashes. Keep in mind, Lee is the talent behind the exquisite period comedy-drama THE KING AND THE CLOWN and the grand, exciting BLADES OF BLOOD (neither of which went unnoticed when they screened at Fantasia in years past). He knows how to make a historical epic with many moving parts that holds together, achieves its aims and looks damn good doing it. Here he has his own elite force under his command, a cast of more-than-capable actors who are clearly having a grand old time with their assigned roles. As the king of Silla, Hwang Jeong-min (also in THE UNJUST at Fantasia this year) knows how to get under his nemeses’ skin (and ours too). Lee Mun-shik’s broad and expressive comedy skills make his hapless yet crafty peasant soldier Thingy a centerpiece of the scenario and Jeong Jin-yeong, as the wise and wily old general Kim, surprises and delights at every turn. Lee treats all his finely sculpted characters with affection and insight, adding a very humane counterpoint to his gleeful, bloodthirsty jests and jabs.