English Title: Champion

Running Time: 115 minutes
Korea Rating: 12
Release Date in Korea: 28 June 2002

Director: KWAK Kyung-taek

Cast:YOO Oh-sungasKIM Deuk-gu
CHAE Min-seoasLEE Kyung-mi
YOON Seung-wonasKIM Hyun-chi
JUNG Doo-hongasLEE Sang-bong
KIM Byung-seoasPARK Jong-pal
JI Dae-hanasHWANG Joon-suk

[Synopsis] [Review]

Written by: Ryan Law
Date: 6 July 2002

During the days the whole community is blooming up by Korean football team, CHAMPION came out to give us a chance to see how is the past in the Sports world with Korean legend boxer KIM Deuk-gu.

The movie is mainly about the history of KIM Deuk-gu by putting across the fragments in the past, his last match and his current. After the success of FRIEND (2001), KWAK Kyung-taek takes YOO Oh-sung again in his new film as KIM Deuk-gu.

While audiences is expecting to be an action film or something like Will Smith in ALI, CHAMPION offers more on the drama. The first 45 minutes of the film has given the major core of the film. Starting from KIM's last match with Ray Mancini in Las Vegas in 1982, KIM is back to a few years ago for his entry to his Tong-a Boxing Organisation. The pace for this part is quick but effect to let audiences to know the way for the rise of the legend of KIM.

Next part is a bit slow with the start of KIM's lover Kyung-mi. The love between Kyung-mi and KIM is pretty minor, or even not strong enough as a normal film. Probably this can be explained by the director's preference on KIM and his boxing industry more. Still the movie is long enough to offer some important points. The running of KIM in order to catch up with Kyung-mi in a bus performs double function in the film which has been taken effective.

Drama on KIM is adequate. It is not strong to make you feel too dramatic. The description on KIM's first losing game is well-treated to give a strong point for KIM to have a big change afterwards in his boxing. YOO Oh-sung, who had proved himself to be a decent actor in FRIEND, shows his leading in acting again in this film. YOO's dialogue in CHAMPION is not much but YOO showed his talent for being a kickboxer who only knows fighting but not the love.

With the going of the film, the movie shows KIM's burden on the kickboxing industry with all his family members, colleagues and his lover. The strong feeling is a bit cool down by KIM's speech. His speech style looks very close to the last speech by YOO in FRIEND. YOO continues to shows the model of a CHAMPION which does not very sensible for his emotions.

As CHAMPION is the movie on the life of KIM Deuk-gu, it is essential to present KIM's death on the boxing stage on his last match. The approach by KWAK is not directly showing the death of KIM, which may make him and audiences feel too sad about it. Instead, he describes the surroundings and the people around. I am pretty impressed by the scene in the hospital with KIM's parent visit.

CHAMPION gets the whole atmosphere in the late 70s and 80s but it makes use of the latest visual effects for the last match. Korean films has shown its progress in the CG effects. In CHAMPION, the effect in the last match is pretty realistic and you won't see the holes.

On the whole, CHAMPION is a film well done by KWAK and YOO. No matter how will be the invitations in the film festival circuits, it is a movie strong enough to be one of the important films in this year.