You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
sieteocho
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Sinnerman
Ambient Noise
Drakula
daface
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Liverbird
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Bollywood
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
15
19
2046
Acacia
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Audition
Avalon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blackboards
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Butterfly
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Clean
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Desire
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Dolls
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Face
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Friend
Full Alert
Garuda
Gemini
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Grudge
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Headlines
Hero
Hidden Blade, The
Homerun
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
Hypnotized
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Install
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Khakee
Korban Fitnah
Koroshi
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love/Juice
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Metropolis
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Ong-Bak
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
Quill
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Samsara
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Sepet
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Shower
Shutter
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
TalkingCock
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
3-Iron
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Waterboys
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me


   Volcano High  



 

Volcano High

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Korean Title: Whasango
Director: Kim Tae-gyun
Writing credits: Kim Tae-gyun, Seo Dong-heon, Chul Jung Yoon
Cast: Hyuk Jang, Shin Min-a, Kim Su-ro
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Genre: Action
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: 99 min
Rating: ** (out of four stars)

How does one go about reviewing a movie that is incoherent? The fault is not entirely due to the director and the screenwriter. Volcano High (Whasango) is a film that presents this problem. Despite being produced in part by Singapore’s own Raintree Productions, the film is screened in Singapore in a truncated version that was shown in the Toronto Film Festival, instead of the original Korean cut of the film. The difference? A whopping 20 minutes of footage deleted, and possibly the largest reason why I found myself wondering what in the world was going on half the time. Of course, the director (Kim Tae-gyun) and the scribe (Seo Dong-heon) aren’t entirely blameless, but one wonders whether the film would be better if it were left intact.

Kyeong-su (Jang Hyuk) has just joined the cohort at Volcano High, his ninth school after being expelled from the previous eight. It isn’t entirely his fault, however. Kyeong-su is blessed/cursed with special powers that has caused him to be harassed since young. Volcano High, unfortunately, isn’t exactly the best school for Kyeong-su to be in. The teachers and students are a competitive lot, and some of them even have superpowers similar to his own. Even more unfortunate is the fact that Kyeong-su has joined the school smack in the middle of a power struggle, not just between the various martial arts student clubs, but also between the students and the teachers. The item that they are all after? The Secret Manuscript, purportedly a martial arts manuscript that will give the wielder powers of unimaginable magnitude.

Heading this conflict is the brash, cocky Jang Ryang (Kim Su-ro), head of the boxing team, who not only wants to reign supreme in the school, but also wants to win the hand of icy maiden Chai-yi (Shin Min-a), head of the Kendo team. Kyeong-su doesn’t want to get involved in the battle, but he also has the hots for Chai-yi. Then, the principal of Volcano High is almost assassinated, and the Vice Principal sends for some really nasty teachers who are intent on beating down the students. Kyeong-su finally decides to come into the equation, but can he defeat the five new teachers who are all seemingly almost as powerful as he is?

It may seem like a pretty decent plot from the synopsis, but in reality the screenplay of Volcano High is in shambles. I seriously had a lot of trouble trying to keep track of the storyline, especially since the subtitles aren’t of stellar quality either. This feeling of confusion was exacerbated with the denouement that left almost everything hanging in mid air, and even the short clips in the credits sequence gave no closure to the film. Arguably, of course, the point about Volcano High is not the story but the effects, but even the effects aren’t that visually impressive. There are several high-octane action sequences, but most of the action feels rote and uninspired.

However, the comedy in Volcano High, and the performances of the leads, helps to keep the film interesting sporadically. There is a lot of offbeat humour to be found in the movie, and it’s particularly funny when Jang Hyuk looks severe and solemn one moment, only to flash a corny grin and a V sign the next. Although Jang Hyuk’s looks aren’t terribly dashing, he has an endearing charm about him that makes the film more palatable. Some of his thunder is stolen by Kim Su-ro, who expertly hams it up to an eye-boggling degree, and is the key person in one of the funniest sequences in the entire film. The rest of the cast is relegated to the background, and despite some interesting costume designs, remain pretty much one-dimensional characters.

Volcano High falls prey to another unfortunate Asian film trap - because we finally have the ability to do special effects, let’s throw everything we have into creating special effects! Trap. Tsui Hark’s Legend of Zu fell prey to it, and Volcano High unfortunately follows in its footsteps. Although visual effects are good, without a coherent plot, it will not matter how aesthetically pleasing the film is. This is particularly true in Asian cinema, because despite the leap in technology, visual effects still aren’t comparable to what is found in Hollywood films. Perhaps the 2-hour version of Volcano High would change my opinions of the film, but I have my doubts about how much better the film could become.

Final Word: Hard to pass real judgment without viewing the actual uncut release of the film, but as it is, Volcano High does not impress.