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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Divine Move"

2014/07/19 | 2796 views | Permalink

Tae-seok (played by Jung Woo-sung) may be a high level Go player but the guy's also a bit of a wimp. His limitations become all too clear when an important play by proxy game with a gangster ends in disaster. Tae-seok, left for dead and eventually imprisoned, only has one path available to him. He leverages his Go skills to learn how to fight like a gangster, finally coming up with a plan and a team to emasculate the gang boss both by beating him at Go and also in a fistfight.

Director Jo Beom-goo makes an outrageous effort to try to force the audience to free associate the concept of Go (you know, that board game with the white and black pieces) and hardcore masculine action. "The Divine Move" frequently lapses into self-parody as a result. This is probably most obvious in the ice locker scene, where two manly shirtless guys play a game of Go in freezing temperatures, then they have a fight. And there's absolutely no good reason for any of this except that this is a movie about Go and fistfights.

So, yes, the concept here is pretty nutty. Whether or not you'll enjoy "The Divine Move" depends pretty much entirely on how much absurdity you're willing to tolerate for the sake of a gangster action film's dedication to its gimmick. The action scenes are certainly high enough quality. The hits really look like they connect in even the most ridiculous circumstances. Step one of Tae-seok's revenge scheme really does set the tone in terms of aburdist graphic violence, and from there the film moves at a decent pace.

And let's not forget about the women! In a film this dedicated to ideas about masculinity and the connection they have to the game of Go, it's pretty significant that the best player we see is, in fact, a little girl who should probably be in elementary school but her mastery of Go is so important that she's gotten dragged into this whole storyline. Kind of begs the question about whether all of this manly posturing is actually supposed to mean anything, eh?

Because believe me, even if you might stare at the screen sometimes wondering how completely insane this movie is, the actors never break character. They consistently insist on having Go games before doing anything else that's more relevant to the plot. Pay attention to the way they attack each other too- it's always the hands. The divine instrument that allows us to play Go. And since the game of Go is what makes you a man, if you don't have your hands, you might as well not even be a man anymore.

"The Divine Move" probably isn't for everyone. At the core, we have a fairly standard action revenge flick that pushes Go as a unifying principle mostly because it has to distinguish itself from all the other action movies somehow. Still, as gimmicks though, it's a pretty good one. If you're looking for actual serious philosophical discussion of Go and its relation to gangster life, check out "The Stone" instead. "The Divine Move" is all about catering to the more base instincts of genre films.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Divine Move" is directed by Jo Beom-goo and features Jung Woo-sung, Lee Beom-soo, Ahn Sung-ki, Kim In-kwon and Lee Si-young.

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