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The Divine Move - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Sin-eui han-su

South Korea 2013

Crime, Thriller

Jo Beom-goo

Jeong Woo-seong
Lee Beom-soo
Ahn Seong-gi
Kim In-kwon
Lee Si-yeong
Ahn Kil-kang
Lee Do-kyeong
Choi Jin-hyeok

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The Divine Move

Story: Tae-seok (Jeong Woo-seong) is a professional Go player and is asked by his brother to help him. His brother has some serious debts to Sal-soo (Lee Beom-soo). However, Sal-soo finds out that Tae-sook helps his brother during a Go game. Tae-sook's brother is killed and the blame for the murder is pinned on Tae-sook. In prison Tae-sook's skills at Go help him win over the favor of a gangster boss. Thus, when Tae-sook is released from prison he has the necessary money to put his plan of revenge into action. Furthermore, in prison he learned how to physically stand his ground, too. For his plan to succeed he needs the help of his brother's friend (Kim In-kwon) and blind Go player Joo-nim (Ahn Seong-gi) as well as that man's friend Heo (Ahn Kil-kang). Tae-seok's first step is to call the attention to his group during some games. After that he spies on Navel (Lee Si-yeong), who is forced to play for Sal-soo. But Sal-soo has an ace up his sleeve. An incredibly talented kid that doesn't play according to usual tactics. Tae-seok doesn't have a good hand in this game, but his desire for revenge makes him blind to realize this.

Review: "The Divine Move" covers a subgenre that deals with gambling and gangsters. Contrary to the also South Korean "Tazza: The High Rollers" this movie doesn't center around card games, but Go. What might sound boring turns out to be a surprisingly action-heavy, dark thriller that stands out with a fine atmosphere. The movie may have its share of problems, but the high pacing, the charismatic actors as well as the well achieved directing make this easy to overlook. A special surprise is the level of violence depicted. Therefore, if you are looking for a bloody gangster movie with some knife fights you shouldn't be put off by the Go-theme. There are no great tactical encounters at the Go board, but instead there is a lot of action.

The Divine Move - Film Screenshot 11

The main plot of the story resembles a live action adaptation of an anime like "Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler". But in the end the movie's foundation simply consists of a revenge plot. If you are looking for more you might get disappointed. To be more accurately, the story is extremely thin and one of the film's two biggest weaknesses. The second weakness are the characters. If the plot is more on the weak side you could expect that the picture instead works more with the individuals and their background stories. But that's not the case. In "The Divine Move" the characters all remain mere sketches. What exactly drives them, what character traits distinguishes them from one another or even just what hobbies they have apart from playing Go: nothing. You could think that this might gives the film the death blow.

The Divine Move - Film Screenshot 12

However, there still is the action. What director Jo Beom-goo delivers here is quite impressive. Jo has already shown in his ridiculous, but undoubtfully entertaining "Quick" that he knows how to bring nonstop action to the screen. This time he changes down a few gears, but once again proves his sense for a great pacing. In the shape of bloody brawls or knife fights the action always kicks in at the right time. The choreography isn't bad at all and the action is relentless, just the way you would expect from a gritty gangster thriller, but deserving special kudos is the editing. The movie has won an award for its high-octane editing - and rightfully so - which still doesn't mean that the viewer will lose track over what's happening. In addition, the amount of violence never leaves any doubt what kind of world we are looking at.

Next to the action this makes the setting the second strong point of the film. The at times gritty locations leave a good impression even at the beginning during the prison scenes and along with the lighting create a great atmosphere. The actors also manage to keep the viewer interested. Jeong Woo-seong ("Cold Eyes") possesses the right amount of charisma to depict a brutal fighter for revenge who may fall short background-wise, as does the rest of the individuals, yet manages to win us over. Lee Beom-soo can normally be seen in comedic roles as in "Over My Dead Body", but this time shows a fantastic diabolic side of his. Lee Si-yeong ("Killer Toon") is apperently just in the movie for the sake of fulfilling the women's quota and easily could have been written out of the movie. Kim In-kwon ("The Tower") takes over the comedy part and Ahn Seong-gi ("Unbowed") is the veteran of the cast who oftentimes steals the show.

The Divine Move - Film Screenshot 13

Somehow the Go game is omnipresent in "The Divine Move", but there aren't really any tactical shenanigans to be found. That's where the picture disappoints since it could have wrapped smart play moves and tricks in cool mind games, the way a few mangas/animes have done successfully. Instead the director shifts to an action scene if things are about to get too lengthy. Therefore, the movie simply lacks the smartly written screenplay it would have deserved. At least there are some hints to a sequel in which some of the unanwered questions might get tackled. Considering the numerous negative aspects it should be a surprise that the film can still be clearly recommended. Reason for that being a great directing, fantastic, relentless action and a gritty atmosphere. For all those who thought "Tazza" was overrated and who like their gangster flicks with a little bit more fights "The Divine Move" is just what you are looking for.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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