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Big Match - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2014

Action, Comedy

Choi Ho

Lee Jeong-jae
Lee Sung-min
Shin Ha-kyun
Kim Ee-seong
Bae Seong-woo

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Big Match

Story: Choi Ik-ho (Lee Jeong-jae) is a successful MMA-fighter who goes by the nickname "Zombie" because he can take a lot of beating. After his upcoming fight is cancelled, since his opponent is tested postive for drugs, he is led to believe that he has a bit of a break now. But suddenly the police turn up at his place and tell him that his brother Yeong-ho (Lee Sung-min) is suspect in a murder case and vanished. Yeong-ho isn't just Ik-ho's brother, but also his trainer and best friend. The police thus also suspects Ik-ho and take him to the station. There, one of his cellmates gives him an earpiece. On the other end Ace (Shin Ha-kyun) explains to Ik-ho that he has kidnapped his brother and that he has to do exactly what he tells him to if he wants to see Yeong-ho in one piece again. Ace has created a perfidious game in which a selected number of millionaires can put money on Ik-ho accomplishing or failing certain tasks. Ik-ho's first task is to escape police custody. But when he is out Soo-kyeong (BoA) is already waiting for him to get him to his next dangerous task. Ik-ho seems to have only one chance: He has to be one step ahead of Ace. However, Ace is still the one making the rules of the game...

Review: Fast-paced action, well-timed comedy, in short: an all in all entertaining action flick. "Big Match" doesn't reinvent the wheel, struggles with an insignificant script, yet makes up for it with captivating action while also radiating an extreme amount of energy. Moreover, the film offers likeable characters at its centre who often run the risk of becoming slapstick characters, yet always somehow manage to avoid this in the end and thus can actually make you smile because of their pecularities. The promise the movie makes during its first half concerning its breathtaking pacing sadly can't be kept until the very end. Towards the end the movie needlessly loses its momentum, so maybe it wouldn't have been that bad if the movie would have been cut short a few minutes while just keeping the highlights.

Big Match - Film Screenshot 11

Let's face it: The story isn't incredibly smart. But that isn't a big deal since it is easy to do without one at the beginning. It's just important that Ik-ho is given a reason to run from the police in a spectacular way while also brawling his way through a whole gangster organisation. Villain Ace is eager to entertain his audience (and accordingly us as well) and therefore constantly gets Ik-ho into precarious situations that create tension. Why shouldn't this be enough for an action movie? Especially if the comedy elements turn out to be a very pleasant plus factor. At some points you even have to laugh out loud without the action every losing anything of its balls-to-the-wall nature. So why not just continue working with your strengths? Unfortunately, director Choi Ho, who also co-wrote the screenplay, had some other ideas in mind.

Big Match - Film Screenshot 12

Therefore, the pacing drops during the second half in order to put more focus on the story. Sadly, there isn't much to shed light on. The more we get to know about the villain and his game the dumber the whole premise will seem to you, even the more since the technical gimmicks are so far-fetched - and at times are working way beyond what constitutes as being credible - that it will almost make you roll your eyes. There also isn't a real suspense curve drawn out, particularly not as after the showdown the real, rather disappointing finale commences. During the first half of "Big Match" there is already the lingering fear that this action flick can never actually keep up this pacing until the end and when your fears are proven true you aren't surpised, naturally, but it still remains a disappointment.

However, the film's strength always lies with its action. The fights are very nicely choreographed and bone-crunching as they should be with the MMA involved. Being particularly impressive is director Choi Ho's camera work. He always stays close to the action, even when it seems impossible and moves his camera along with the action in a fantastic fashion at all times. In his gritty flick "Bloody Tie" you could already witness his liking for experimental camera work, but here he sometimes even outdoes himself. Lee Jeong-jae ("New World", "The Housemaid") deserves some big kudos as well, though. His impressive fitness is put to display here in a lot of scenes. Furthermore, it's the first time I see him in a role where he isn't dislikable. On the contrary, with his very charming nature he carries the film even during some of its weaker moments. You can tell that he had a fun time and this alone is contagious. A great effort!

Big Match - Film Screenshot 13

Cutting a fine figure during the action scenes as well is BoA. Yes, the singer you even have heard of if you don't listen to K-Pop. Her dancing experience probably helped her to look as if she actually is trained in boxing. As an actress she doesn't seem completely untalented either, but it's hard to tell exactly, after all the characters are too weakly developed. Which becomes especially apparent with Shin Ha-kyun ("Running Man", "Save the Green Planet") as the villain, who doesn't really give an excellent performance here. In the end, it still is surprising how much fun "Big Match" can be with its great action and its well-done comedy, even though you shouldn't be too disappointed that the flick gears down a lot towards the end and would have benefited from not diving deeper into the non-existent story and instead deliver more action during its showdown.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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