Chang-gwol AKA Rampant [2018]

Rampant is a refreshing South Korean zombie epic set during the middle ages with awesome special effects and an original story. If you’re a fan of zombie movies you probably have seen them in all the possible settings. From WWII over present-day shenanigans to skirmishes in the post-apocalyptic world. But I bet you haven’t seen them in medieval times. The very fact that you don’t have guns or any of the modern weaponry but have to fight them with swords and arrows adds a special flavor to the whole affair. With Asian cinema, there’s always a fear that the characters or action sequences are going to be too silly but that is not the case here. Apart from our king’s servant who was a familiar comical relief character, the rest of them were all great. So, don’t think you won’t enjoy this one because of the cultural differences.

Rampant is technically the first South Korean foray into this setting with the television show Kingdom being the second. And while Kingdom is explicitly based on The Kingdom of the Gods webcomic series, Rampant doesn’t mention it. Released in 2014, it probably served as an inspiration for the story. With lush and vibrant cinematography, Rampant is very visually appealing. I mean, the first scene with this huge burning ship tells you that you’re in for a treat. There’s just enough gore that this isn’t considered a mainstream movie and we’ll be seeing some pretty good action sequences with decapitations and everything that goes along with this type of fighting.

Under the cover of a night, a very important deal is being made on a ship sailing towards Korea. Crown Prince Lee Young is trying to get ahold of a shipment of guns sent from Europe in order to fortify his country’s independence against threatening Chinese monarchs nearby. The current minister of War Kim Ja-joon, learns of the plot and decides to foil it by attacking the ship. What either of them doesn’t know is that this ship holds a secret. A dark and very dangerous secret in a form of a very ill prisoner who succumbed to a strange disease that forces him to desire human flesh…

Although the story featured in Rampant is your straight-forward struggle for power, the fact that it’s taking place in medieval South Korea makes it exotic and intriguing. I especially enjoyed all their different types of hats that symbolize the status in the hierarchy of the person wearing them. Now add zombies to it and you got yourself one hell of a mix. Entertaining and intense, Rampant rarely gets boring although it has a pretty solid runtime of almost two hours. Comparisons to the Kingdom and the first South Korean zombie hit Train to Busan can be made but I think we should all just relax and enjoy this glorious zombie extravaganza. The action scenes are juicy and imposing with dozens and dozens of extras and spacious locations. Sure, we could pick apart the wobbly pacing and sometimes melodramatic scenes but that’s just how goes in the city, the city of Jemulpo. If they shaved off just about thirty to forty minutes, this could be a phenomenal action-packed blockbuster…

If you’re looking for movies like Rampant I recommend you check out Mulgoe, Gwoemul and Gokseong, apart from two already mentioned titles. And I would be remiss if I didn’t urge you to check out 13 Assassins, gloriously bloody sword carnage directed by Takashi Miike if you’re craving more Asian action. Enjoy.

Director: Sung-hoon Kim

Writers: Jo-yun Hwang, Shin-yeon Won, Hwang Jo Yoon

Cast: Hyun Bin, Jang Dong-Gun, Han Ji-Eun, Eui-sung Kim, Woo-jin Jo, Sun-Bin Lee, Tae-hoon Kim, Sung-tae Heo

Fun Facts: Budget was $15 million


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