Writer: Florey DMWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“The Conjuring” franchise, “The Exorcist”
When your palms start bleeding for no good reason, and yet your health stays in tip top condition, you might just be afflicted with the same divine fate that has befallen our protagonist in "The Divine Fury", a full on God-hating MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter named Yong-hoo.
Though born a Christian and raised by a church-going single father, Yong-hoo turns his back on God when his father dies in an accident during his childhood, despite him praying hard for God to save his father. (The little conversation he had with his father about his mother's death should've clued him in on the fact that prayers don't exactly work like magic wishes).
He hates God so much he starts flinging cross at priest and goes berserk whenever he so much as sees a cross, even if it's only in tattoo form. To be fair, the movie explained that the darkness in his heart grows over the years, attracting evil spirits to attach themselves to him (hence the almost schizophrenic tendency he has of hearing voices whispering evil things to him).
Yong-hoo grows up to be a brooding young man, undefeated in the MMA ring, most likely thanks to the evil voices in his head that egg him on until he mercilessly pummels his opponent.
It is only when stigmata mysteriously appear on his hands that he finds himself turning back to the religion he's abandoned for so long, to look for answers after science pronounces him well despite the blood-gushing wounds on his palms.
His search for answers unwittingly turns him into the unwilling and unbelieving sidekick of Father Ahn (played by the ever-capable Ahn Sung-ki), a veteran demon-fighting Korean priest sent by the Vatican to vanquish the Dark Bishop, a Satanist played by Woo Do-hwan, who performs rituals and makes sacrificial offerings to a mysterious entity in a dark, watery pit conveniently situated underneath his swanky nightclub.
Setting up the lead character as an MMA fighter plants false hopes in fans who are expecting to see more action in the movie. Director Kim Joo-hwan missed the opportunity to make the exorcism scenes more action-packed and unique by introducing more resilient and aggressive demons who would force Yong-hoo to utilise his fighting skills to defeat them, aside from just simply smacking his stigma (he uses only his right - righteous? - hand, the other stigma is pretty much neglected after making its bloody introduction) onto the possessed to drive away the demon(s) within.
Only Yong-hoo's first exorcism scene with Father Ahn is the abovementioned applied, the ones that follow afterwards lack the same excitement. The possessed ones being female or a child is no excuse for generic, run-off-the-mill exorcisms, it would've been interesting to see this virile young man debating whether to punch the living daylight out of a possessed woman or kid when she or he won't stop baiting him with evil talks.
Park is trained in Hapkido and boxing, and has successfully carried a starring role as taekwondo-turned-MMA fighter Go Dong Man in "Fight for My Way"; it's a shame to not see more of his fighting skills shine on screen.
While horror is obviously the genre this movie is zeroing on, there are, of course, comic moments sprinkled in. Unfortunately, director Kim fared better in balancing serious moments with funny ones in his other Park Seo-joon starring movie ("Midnight Runners"). There are times when watching this movie that you will find yourself questioning whether you should be even be laughing at what's onscreen.
That's not to say the movie should forgo its comedic touches completely. The best of these is often in the interaction between Yong-hoo and Father Ahn. Their awkward acquittance that eventually grows into a more relaxed friendship is fun to watch. Their fun banter is reminiscent of Yong-hoo's own way of conversing with his father, as Father Ahn sorts of turns into a surrogate parental figure for the orphaned young man.
While the movie isn't exactly the action-packed demon-fighting number promised by its trailers, it's still a fun watch if only for the chemistry between the two leads. There's room for improvement but since this is intended to be the first entry of a franchise, the subsequent movies might fare better.
Watching "The Divine Fury" probably won't turn you into a devout follower of the promised franchise but it will strengthen your faith in the acting talents of Park Seo-joon and Ahn Sung-ki. Trivia:
• Much like his character in the movie, Park Seo-joon is reportedly an atheist (though probably not quite so angry at God).
• While he's no MMA fighter, Park Seo-joon did star as one in 2017 K-drama, "Fight for My Way". Cinema Online, 15 August 2019