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Cheon Gun

Heaven's Soldiers

South Korea 2005
produced by
Sidus Pictures/Showbox
directed by Min Joon-ki
starring Hwang Jeong-min, Kim Seung-woo, Park Joong-Hoon, Kong Hyo-jin, Kim Byeong-chun, Kim Seung-cheol, Kim Su-hyeon
written by Min Joon-ki

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When because of a peace treaty North Korea decides to give up the atom bomb, hot headed patriot Major Kang (Kim Seong-woo) feels devastated ... and decides to steal a nuclear warhead, plus female nuclear scientist Kim (Kong Hyo-jin), just to have a specialist at hand. A batallion of South Korean soldiers under Major Park (Hwang Jeong-min) picks up pursuit almost immediately though, and the two are fighting it out on sea in rubber dinghys ... when suddenly a comet stops by and transports Kang and Park with two soldiers each and Kim back to 1572 - right into a conflict between Korean peasents and the invading Japanese - which the visitors from the future can decide for teh Koreans thanks to their fire power. And thus they are soon dubbed heaven's soldiers.

However, one night while they are sleeping in some cave, young Lee Soon-shin (Park Joong-Hoon) steals their weapons and hides them, and when two of the soldiers try to chase him down, all three are thrown into jail - but for the others, it's imperative to get them out again since Lee Soon-shin is the Korean national hero, the man who laterleads the Korean fleet to victory against the Japanese fleet vastly outnumbering the Korean battleboats. However, once they have gotten Lee out again, he is nothing like the national hero our visitors from the future have hoped for but a cynical thief and ginseng smuggler - in one word, a big disappointment ... and he won't even tell the soldiers where he has hidden their weapons.

It is not until The Japanese capture him, torture him and kill a young girl before his very eyes that Lee's patriotism comes to the fore, and thus when the soldiers from the future free him (and are also able to retrieve the nuclear warhead, which somehow got into the hands of the Japanese), he agrees to help them defend a nearby village under threat of being overrun by a Japanese army vastly outnumbering the peasents living there, and eh even returns the weapons to the soldiers from the future.

Then though, the soldiers learn that if they want to return to their time (which is when the comet passes), it has to be before the battle, and they can't let Lee join the battle either, because he is more than likely to die then and there and thus couldn't rise to future greatness.

However, after a bit of to and fro, all the soldiers, North as well as South Koreans, join Lee in battle, and they all die a hero's death saving Lee's life on numerous occasions, and only scientist Kim returns to her time with the bomb ...

 

At first, this film seems like G.I.Samurai all over again - but apart from the same premise, the two films have little in common, and for the most part, Heaven's Soldiers actually takes a light-footed, comedic approach to its material, and while it's not wildly funny, it's at least in spots pretty amusing. Actually, only the unreflected patriotic subtext seems a little out of place, and actually annoying, and when it comes to full bloom in the finale, it actually turns cheesy - but at least, the final battle is incredibly bloody (and not only for a comedy).

Not a classic, definitely, but entertaining enough to give it a try ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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