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The Sword with No Name (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 18, 2011 by  



Fantastic!  “The Sword with No Name” is a fictional storyline based on the real-life assassination of Korea’s Empress/Queen Myeongseong and features a wonderful performance by actress Su Ae and actor Cho Seung-woo.  Beautiful cinematography, music and an effective storyline that makes this romantic tragedy worth watching.  Definitely recommended!

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Images courtesy of © 2009 Sidus FNH.  Licensed by FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Sword with No Name (Bool-kkott-cheo-reom na-bi-cheo-reom)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: 124 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9 HD Native), DolbyTrue HD Korean 2.0 and DolbyTrueHD English 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV MA

COMPANY: Showbox/FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2011

Directed by Yong-guyn Kim

Written by Seol-Rok Ya

Produced by Kim Mi Hee

Cinematography by Kim Myung Joon

Music by Kim Myung Joon

Edited by Kim Seok Won Kim Chang Sub

Costume Design by Hyun Seob Shim

Starring:

Soo Ae as Empress Myeong-Seong

Seung-woo Cho as Moo-Myeong

Jae-jim Baek as King’s father’s commander

Jae-woong Choi as Noe-jeon

Su-hee Go as So-hee

In-gu Heo as Ko-jong’s follower

Ho-jin Jeon as Dae Won-gun

Young-min Kim as Go-jong

Yong-nyeo Lee as Court Lady Choi

Park Min-hee as Mi Woo-ra

The Joseon Dynasty’s legendary Empress Myseongseong is a cherished ruler who fought courageously to modernize Korea. Forced to marry a king she does not love and embroiled in a brutal struggle between rival world powers, the Empress draws her strength from a dashing rogue; a nameless headhunter who would do anything to be near her.

This dark and brooding master of the blade protects the Empress as she stands strong against the sinister forces seeking to colonize her beloved country. When a traitor within the royal family orchestrates a plot to assassinate the Empress, only this anonymous swordsman proves willing to spill his own blood in defense of the noble beauty who would sacrifice her life for the people of Korea.

Korea’s Empress/Queen Myeongseong, her story of the Queen during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea is best known in history for standing up against Japan’s military and government influence in the East by aligning Korea with Russia but also her tragic story of how she would be assassinated by those she stood up against.

Her story is quite fascinating and you can’t help but respect what she was able to accomplish but seeing how things unfolded when she became a Queen and her willingness to open Korea to work with representatives of foreign countries.

But because of the dramatic and tragic elements of her story and the fact that all photos of the Empress were burned and destroyed, needless to say that the Empress has become a sort of mystery.  No known photo exists and needless to say there have been dramatizations of the Queen and because she is such a historic figure, as well as heroic, there have been interest in her.

And in the case of “The Sword with No Name”, the 2009 film receives a romanticized fictional story about the Empress or Queen written by Seol-Rok ya and directed by Yong-gyun Kim (“The Red Shoes”).  The film would star actress Soo Ae (or spelled Su Ae, “Athena: Goddess of War”, “Love Letter”) playing the character of the Empress/Queen Myeong-seong and actor Seung-woo Cho (“Go Go 70’s”, “Love Phobia”, “Marathon”).

And now the Blu-ray and DVD will be released courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment on Sept. 20th.

“The Sword with No Name” begins with the murders of Catholic women in Korea and for young Johannes, he watches as his mother is beheaded and can’t do anything about it.  Fast forward to the present and Min Ja Yeong has been selected to become the next queen to marry King Gojong (played by Kim Young-Min).

Although she doesn’t know or love the man, it’s her destiny to become the next queen of Korea and before she is to marry, she decides to take a quick trip to the beach where her father took her to as a child.  She hitches a ride on a boat owned by Mu-Myeong (played by Seung-woo Cho) and he agrees to take the beautiful woman to the beach.

While getting to know the future Queen, Mu-Myeong becomes smitten with Min Ja Yeong and both start to find comfort within one another.  When he goes to take her back, someone tries to assassinate her but is protected by Mu-Myeong.  They are then approached by Noe Jeon (played by Choi Jae-Woong), the greatest swordsman who works under King Gojong and he learns from the Queen that Mu-Myeong had just saved her life.

As Min Ja Yeong has gotten married and becomes the Queen Myeongseong of Korea, a smitten Mu-Myeong has decided that he wants to protect the Queen and despite being warned not to show up anywhere near the Queen, Mu-Myeong tells the King’s father Dae Won Kun (played by Cheon Ho-Jin) that he will do anything to get a job as a palace guard and so Dae Won Kun holds him to that and tells him he must wear a bullet proof vest that was just developed and must be shot at (on the vest) by his soldiers to prove himself and if he survives, he will get a job as a palace guard.  And sure enough, Mu-Myeong is able to become a palace guard and will do all he can to protect the Queen.

Meanwhile, the Queen would use her intellect to become a political power as she was the complete opposite of the King.  But because Japan was starting to assert their power over the East, the Queen would work with foreign powers, specifically the Russians in order to create a strong relation instead of being ran by a power hungry Japan.  Of course, this was in opposition with King Gojong’s father, who has built his career working with the Japanese.  And because of that, there was a struggle of power as King Gojong believed in Korea, that is better to work with Japan than open itself to other cultures, while the Queen was the opposite.

But also, there was a resentment that his son, the King of Korea would go to his wife to handle international and domestic affairs.  And thus, with Japan, a plan is hatched to kill the Queen.

Dedicated to protect her forever, Moo-Myeong will do all he can to protect the women he cares about from being killed.  Will he succeed?

VIDEO:

“The Sword with No Name” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the picture quality of this film is fantastic.  From the vibrant colors outdoors, to the colorful outfits that the Queen and the guards would wear, the colors of the film is what makes this film so beautiful.

The HD release of this film also showcases the textures and details of the clothing but also skin of the characters.  Needless to say, visually “The Sword with No Name” is fantastic, black levels are nice and deep and color, its strong point looks absolutely great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sword with No Name” is presented in Korean with a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mix and and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix (note: The case says 1.5 but it’s mixed around and should be 5.1).  As mentioned before for many Asian films, I am one who will never watch an Asian film with an English dub.  The Korean lossless soundtrack features wonderful acting by both Su Ae and Cho Seung-Woo and their emotions are very important as a viewer, by listening to the English dub track, I know FUNimation Entertainment is great when it comes to English dubs but the English dub soundtrack…I listened to it for a short while and it wasn’t for me.

Dialogue is crystal clear and the sword fights and the clanging of steel upon steel sounds good, despite not being a 5.1 mix.  But still, the acting in this film by its two lead talents are just wonderful and listening to someone else trying to bring that emotion to a Western audience, it just doesn’t work for me.  So, I’m biased towards the original Korean dialogue.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sword with No Name” comes with the following special features:

    • Making the Sword with No Name – (10:10) Featuring the making of “The Sword with No Name” and how various scenes were shot.
    • Cast Interviews – (10:43) A short interview with Cho Seung-woo and Su Ae talking about their character role.
    • Teaser Trailer – (1:23) Featuring the teaser trailer for “The Sword with No Name”.
    • Theatrical Trailer – (1:55)The theatrical trailer for “The Sword with No Name”.

EXTRAS:

“The Sword with No Name” comes with a slipcover case.

For over a decade, since the day I discovered the news about the real-life Empress Myeongseong, I have always admired the stories that detail her life as an intellectual but also what she did to protect her country.

From the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, Japan was a dominating country known for its ruthless military and its goal of dominating Asia as a whole without Western or international influence.  So, when I researched the Queen back then, it was always an interesting and intriguing story based on real-life events of what this woman did her for her country but also her love/hate relationship to her husband the King.

And as there have been many dramatizations on the life of the real queen, “The Sword with No Name” would take things a bit in a different direction by making by romanticizing her story but featuring her as a strong, intellectual woman.

I absolutely enjoyed this film! And sure, as it would have been great to have a film adaptation on the real life Empress, but the fact that she is such an intriguing woman, she also has been somewhat of a mystery.  There are records and writings about her, her accomplishments and life as a Queen (which she is often shown in a juxtaposition with Marie Antoinette) but surprisingly, many documents of the Queen’s assassination are just making itself known to the public most recently in 2005 (a written account of the Queen’s assassination known as the “Eulmi Incident” by a Russian civilian working with the Korean government at the time) but to this day, no photo of her exists (it is said that the Japanese destroyed all photos of her after her assassination).

But one can understand how the Queen’s tragedy would add fire to the wheels towards anti-Japanese sentiments in Korea and things would get worse between Korea and Japan for many decades more and tensions between the two countries still exist today.

But if anything, while not a non-fiction-based story, “The Sword with No Name” still reignites interest of not just Koreans but people all over the world who have just watched the film and are wanting to learn about the real life Empress Myeongseong.  And for me, there is so much going for this story in terms of its storyline, its strong performances by Su Ae and Cho Seung-woo but also its beautiful visuals and even clever swordfighting choreography.  The film looks absolutely wonderful on Blu-ray and I’m quite happy that FUNimation Entertainment decided to bring this film to the U.S.

“The Sword with No Name” is a film that Asian cinema fans should watch.  I often hear from my Asian cinema friends about how Asia is stuck within this banality of rehashed films and are stuck with creating satisfying film releases but when I watch a film like “The Sword with No Name”, I can’t help but be rather appreciative for this film because it is one heck of an awesome love story but it also is one of those films that will make viewers possibly wanting to know more about the actual person the film is about.

There is so many positive things going for this film and aside from what I just mentioned, the music and cinematography are absolutely enjoyable to watch as well!  The swordfighting  choreography is not too over the top and I felt it was quite stylized but in a cool and effective way.

Overall, if you are looking for a wonderful film from Korea or Asia that is now available on Blu-ray or DVD in the U.S., I highly recommend giving “The Sword with No Name” a try!

Definitely recommended!

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