Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Revenger is a South Korean action movie that was just recently released in the United States on Netflix. It stars stunt choreographer and actor Bruce Khan. The internet says I should know him from his work on The Medallion (2003) and The Last Eve (2005) but I’ve never seen those movies and I’ve never heard of Bruce Khan. He has only done a few movies (starring in none of them) and his most recent work in film was in 2005. For some reason, at age 50, he decided to come out of nowhere to write and star in Revenger, and I am so happy he did!
Revenger follows Detective Yool (Khan), who infiltrates a prison island in the near future. The island is run by Kun (Park Hee-Soon), the man who killed Yool’s wife and daughter. With the help of a group of people trying to survive the rule of Kun, Yool seeks to find and kill Kun.
Revenger starts on a high note with one of the best fight scenes of the year. A small girl and her mother running through a jungle while being chased by multiple assailants. They end up on the beach, where they run out of room to run and are caught. The mother tries to fight off the men, but is overwhelmed. Just when things look bleak, Bruce Khan shows up in the most glorious way. He appears out of nowhere and takes out all of the attackers despite being in a straight jacket and a Hannibal Lecter face mask. It is an incredible introduction to a badass character and an ingenious way to showcase Khan’s skill.
Khan is incredible in this role. Unlike most modern martial arts movies that focus on flashy, fast moves and choreography, Khan’s fighting style tends to place an emphasis on using his legs, which reminded me of Jean-Claude Van Damme in his prime (There are even a few slow motion kicks!!), or a less flashy Scott Adkins. Khan’s moves also seem more controlled and realistic compared to the highly stylized choreography of a lot of modern action movies. Instead of a lot of fancy moves, Khan tends to parry an opponent’s strike, then dispatch him with one or two powerful moves. I’m not saying this style is better. All I mean is, it felt different and, as a result, fresh.
Another thing I loved about Revenger, and the thing that kept Khan’s action scenes from feeling repetitive as the movie went on, was the variety. We got that straight jacket scene at the beginning, a couple one on one fights, scenes of Khan against multiple henchmen, a fantastic sword fight, and a ridiculously cool 8 minute long final fight against Kun. Every fight involving Khan is filmed perfectly, allowing us to clearly see his skill and athleticism, and the use of minimal to no music during the fight scenes adds to their realism, making them more intimate and more effective.
I have no complaints about the action scenes involving Bruce Khan. I will say, however, that his character, Detective Yool, is not a very strong one. Khan barely says anything throughout the movie (It can’t be more than five lines), so he comes across as tunnel visioned man with no purpose other than revenge. That’s fine and all, and he DOES pull off the intimidating aspect of the character, but the character has no personality or charisma. All we’re left with is a machine like person and no ability to connect with the character. This isn’t a huge complaint, as well developed characters aren’t as necessary when the action is this good, but I still would have liked to see more opportunity for Khan’s personality to shine through his character.
My main issue with Revenger is pretty much everything other than the fight scenes involving Bruce Khan. The other characters range from boring to downright awful. The worst characters are a group of “warriors” within the outcast group. They are all played for humor, but it is silly, exaggerated humor that completely clashes with the tone of the rest of the movie and, in my opinion, falls flat.
Basically, anytime Bruce Khan wasn’t on the screen, this movie was terribly boring and near unwatchable for me. The movie is only 101 minutes long, but it dragged at times, especially in the middle when Detective Yool is poisoned and is in a coma for a while. That was the worst decision in this poorly written script because it took away the only person that made the movie worth watching. Instead, I had to watch about 30 minutes of unfunny humor and boring, crappy dialogue. Luckily, Yool wakes up from his coma and saved me from from falling into my own boredom coma by kicking the action into overdrive with some more fantastic action scenes.
Overall, Revenger was sort of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, the story is very weak and every character other than Yool is poorly acted and annoying. Besides that, the conflicting tones of the silly comedy and the very serious revenge story make for a confusing experience. On the other hand, this movie gave us a new badass action star in Bruce Khan and a ton of incredible action scenes that will be hard to top as the best action scenes of the year. In the end, I would recommend you give this one a shot. Some of the movie might be hard to get through, but you won't want to miss any of the action. Trust me on this one.