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Musa

Musa the Warrior
The Warrior / The Warrior Princess / Princess of the Desert

South Korea/China 2001
produced by
Cha Seoung-Jae, Xia Shang for CJ Entertainment, Sidus Pictures, China Film, Beijing Film Studio
directed by Kim Sung-su
starring Jung Woo-sung, Ji Jin-mo, Zhang Ziyi, Ahn Sung-kee, Yu Rongguang, Park Yong-woo, Park Jeong-hak, Jeong Seok-yong, Lee Du-il, Han Yeong-mok, Song Jae-ho, Yu Hae-jin
written by Kim Sung-su, music by Shiro Sagisu, martial arts director: Jung Doo-hung

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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General Choi (Ju Jin-mo) was entrusted with the task of accompanying a convoy of Korean envoys safe to the Ming palace and back - but the Ming have set a trap for the envoys and the whole group is dragged out to the desert and left to fend for their own, hundreds of miles away from Korea - and before long, our Koreans run into the Mongolian army led by General Rambulhua (Yu Rongguang), with whom they almost clash, but ultimately the Mongolians leave them be upon realizing the Koreans are not associated with the Mings, their sworn enemy. The only take one prisoner, Yeosol (Jung Woo-sung), a former slave who has fought against the Mongols single-handedly and most skillfully.

But the Mongols have also another prisoner, Ming princess Bu-yong (Zhang Ziyi) - and suddenly General Choi forgets all his plans to bring his Koreans home safely and instead comes up with the idea to free the Princess to reconcile with the Mings.

Freeing the Princess isn't too difficult, especially after they free Yeosol as well, who can fight like 10 men, but then they have to make it to Ming palace, and like in a game of chess General Rambulhua anticipates each and every of our Koreans' moves, and at one point burns down a village and all of its boats so they cannot get provisions or cross a river - and as a result, the villagers who escaped the ordeal team up with the Koreans, which slows down their caravan.

More and more the situation escalates to Choi and Yeosol - each in his own way - vying for the Princess' attentions, and before long, the caravan doesn't trust Choi anymore and his command is handed over to Jinlip (Ahn Sung-kee), an older and more experienced army officer who has always had a soft spot for Yeosol, whom almost everyone else treats with disrespect, even though he is the fiercest fighter of the bunch and has saved the Princess' life numerous times.

Ultimately the caravan takes posession of an abandoned fortress to best defend themselves against the Mongols, but the situation among the caravan itself is tense to breaking point even without the Mongols - which at one point almost leads to Yeosol and Choi killing each other ... but when the Mongols attack, they finally realize each other's virtues and fight side by side ...

In a very bloody battle, our small group of Koreans manages to overcomethe Mongols who vastly outnumber them, but both Choi and Yeosol have to leave their lives, with Yeosol saving the Princess# life one last time catching a spear meant for her and finally killing Mongol General Rambulhua.

The survivors led by Jinlip go back to Korea while the Princess is free to go wherever she likes.

 

On a directorial level, Musa is nothing short of impressive, every frame seems to be carefully composed without looking artificial, the many battle scenes really pack a punch and are absolutely gory and as gruesome as you would expect a battle to be, and the historical sets, props and costumes work for the film instead of dragging it down. That all said, Musa is not the great historical epic it could and should have been, what it boasts in direction it lacks in script: actually the basic storyline about two men fighting for the attention of a woman is pretty feeble, with most of the film's subplots adding precious little to the proceedings, especially since most of them are nothing but overused clichés. Plus, all the characters are incredibly flat, especially the main characters and especially Zhang Ziyi's Princess, who doesn't seem to have any character trait of her own at all - and unfortunately give the actress very little to work with.

It's not that the films is a total waste of time, it's still great to look at and it does have its tense moments - it just could have been so much better.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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