Three of us tried streaming ‘The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure’ on Netflix, lost interest by the first 10 minutes, two spaced out completely, left the room. It just didn’t seem fun. So I ended up being the only one who saw the full Korean film, with some help from the fast-forward button.
Directed by Jeon-hoon Kim and written by Chun Sung-il, this pre-Joseon era story about a motley crew of pirates/bandits on the hunt for a treasure is slow, chaotic and ridiculously boring. Even though the visuals and sets are pretty good, with decent graphics (they do get fake AF in some bizarre scenes, like the one with a dude holding a penguin in his arms or another with a whole lot of the flightless birds). It feels like the makers wanted it to be a campy Pirate movie, yet they don’t exaggerate much, and when they do, it’s neither amusing nor hilarious.
Kang Ha-Neul is Woo Moo-Chi, an expert swordsman & leader of a bandit group that gets shipwrecked & is rescued by notorious pirate Hae-Rang (played by Han Hyo-joo). These two groups form an unlikely alliance to look for lost treasure they come to know off after attacking a Japanese vessel. The lack of attention to details stares you in the face in the first few minutes. Woo Moo-Chi is battered in the introductory scene, face browned by a harsh sea-sun, lips parched and torn, but his teeth look like he is in a toothpaste commercial. Maybe 14th century bandits believed in impeccable dental hygiene or wore veneers.
To be fair, Han Hyo-joo does a great job as the feisty leader Hae-Rang, who gets to kick a lot of butt as the only woman on her pirate ship. Hyo-joo’s outfits in the film however looked out of place, they had a more 20th century aesthetic to them than 13th-14th AD Korea. That said, it was her spirited character that breathes some life into this otherwise mediocre tale. Kang Ha-Neul’s Don Quixote like hero role was borderline annoying and un-funny.
Treasure-hunt movies can be entertaining as hell, but the makers of ‘The Pirates’ mix too many themes, making it an absolute mess. Amid all the fighting, sparring, hunting, running, escaping, they also stuff in some romance between two lead actors who have very little chemistry. The climax is on expected lines, with fight scenes that inspire little excitement.
It’s a 4/10 from me.
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