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[Herald Review] When go meets fierce action

‘The Divine Move’ mixes action, entertainment, characters under theme of the mind game

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Published : 2014-07-02 19:54
Updated : 2014-07-02 20:01

The game of go seems convoluted and mind-boggling to beginners, though the game pieces are simple black and white stones.

Go is a brain game; the playing time can range from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the strategies of the players. No talking or action is required. Winning or losing is all determined on the grid of 361 points.

In this war of silent minds, another game piece is added to the board. Blood spatter and heated action are peppered throughout an epic go battle in the new film “The Divine Move,” directed by Jo Bum-gu. 
Jung Woo-sung (left) and Ahn Sung-ki star in the new action film “The Divine Move” as go masters gearing up for an act of revenge. (Showbox/Mediaplex)

“There haven’t been many movies made based on the game of go, because go jargon is hard to understand for many people,” said Jo. “My greatest concern was blending action, entertainment and characters all in harmony under the theme of go.”

Jo’s effort to mix the polar opposites of a game of go and fierce action came together under the theme of life. In the film, actor Ahn Sung-ki, who plays the character Joo-nim (the Korean word for Jesus), says, “For those with the upper hand, the world is a playground, while for those with the lower hand, it is a living hell.” He was referring to the game of go and life in general, a testimony to Joo-nim’s tragic life as a blind go player.

A-list actor Jung Woo-sung joins the cast of the go flick. Jung plays professional go player Tae-seok in a comeback role after playing the villain in last year’s box office hit “Cold Eyes.”

Tae-seok watches as his brother is murdered by Sal-su, played by Lee Bum-soo, during a high stakes go match. He is even framed for the crime and locked up in prison. As he serves his time, he vows revenge against the notorious Sal-su and his gang. He gathers professional go players and forms a team to prepare for a final match against Sal-su’s invincible team. His players play one-by-one in this life-or-death, bloody game of go.

Through the endless matches, the plot is straightforward without many twists, but still manages to maintain the tension and keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Jung is a calm yet charismatic presence throughout the movie. He represents the white stone of go, contrasting with his black stone nemesis Lee Bum-soo, who plays the villain with intensity.

The representative colors were obvious when Jung stood out in a white suit. During go, the black stone is typically played by the less-skilled player, who makes the first move, while the white stone makes the next move in response.

Just as the colors convey their own meanings, the movie will delight audiences familiar with the game’s rules. Nevertheless, the film is also kind to those without knowledge of go. The characters and subtitles explain the go jargon important to understanding the plot.

Yet, in this story of go, the detailed and exaggerated bloody scenes may not be necessary to portray the theme of the movie.

Regardless of the film’s excessive violence, the film does offer life lessons toward the end, as Joo-nim answers the question of whether there is such thing as a divine move.

“The divine move is when you walk steadily and consistently each day.”

“The Divine Move” opens in theater on Thursday.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)

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