Rating: 7/10
Year: 2002
Genre: Drama
Director: Kwak Kyung-Taek
Cast: Yoo Oh-Sung, Chae Min-Seo

After the highly successful Friend in 2001, this year, Kwak Kyung-Taek and Yoo Oh-Sung returned with another extraoordinary drama - Champion. Although Champion was not able to surpass the superb box office record of Friend, being one of the highest grossing local films in Korea this summer, it is still a well polished work that is worth some recognitions.

The story of this film is based on Kim Deuk-Gu, the former Asian champion boxer. His legendary life is turned into an intense drama. Every significant moment of his short but fruitful career is covered. In addition, a little portion is dedicated to his love encounter. The plot is very rich and intact, even though the ending is supposed to be a tragedy, we would not feel too miserable, it is because the objective of the story is not to make you cry, but rather to promote the positive attitude of a man who never gives up.

If you have seen Friend, you would probably agree with me that Kwak Kyung-Taek is a realist filmmaker. His film does not have too many dramatic twist, drama gradually unfolds through a collection of ordinary yet highly sophisticated events. The focus is always about the complex human interactions while the emotions and personalities of the characters are constructed in a genuine and intimate way. Moreover, the cinematography is refined and delicate, every image is placed at the right place without a flaw. Luckily, Champion inherits all of these traits, which results in a very engaging viewing experience.

There are quite a number of characters in this film, however, only one person, that is, the protagonist Kim Deuk-Gu, is the focus of the filmmaker. Everything is centered around him, his "exterior" encounter and inner struggle are depicted elaborately. The character appears so lively that viewers can actually feel his emotions intimately as if it is a real person staying with them. Certainly, without the excellent performance by Yoo Oh-Sung, the creation of the character would not be complete. Yoo is a diligent actor. It is obivous that he has spent a lot of time to train up his body and learn boxing. The outcome is rewarding. He has transformed himself into a real boxer! Lead actress Chae Min-Seo is fairly new in the industry, her performance is impressive even though she does not appear too much in the film.

Cinematography is carefully planned as expected. Kwak Kyung-Taek recreated the early 1980s period of Korea convincingly. No matter the building or the costume, everything is taken care of to the smallest detail. The boxing scenes are also visually stunning. The filmmaker employs a documentary style to capture the action of the boxers, that is why the fights look so real and dynamic. Moreover, the timing is well calculated that you wouldn't find any of the fight scenes to be too long or dry.

Champion is not a fast-paced action film and it is very different from Hollywood boxing classic Rocky in which there are tons of dramatic twist. But it doesn't mean it is bad. It is because boxing is only the coat, the essence of this film is in fact the rich and profound drama constructed by the filmmaker.

Cool guy(s) - Yoo Oh-Sung

Reviewed by: Kantorates