How many Korean wrestling movies have you seen? If the answer was “none”, then you’ll have to do something about that. The Foul King is easily the best Korean wrestling movie I’ve seen, and I say that with confidence.
For those who doubt, let me try to convince you. First of all, we’ve got Song Kang Ho in the lead role, as a bank clerk who’s bullied by his boss and can’t bring himself to talk to the girl of his dreams. “So what?” I hear you say. “There are dozens of those films around, and I haven’t felt the need to see any of them.”
Well, Song is one of the funniest actors around: he has a deadpan expression on his flat face, and a voice that occasionally rises in indignation, that always make me laugh. And who could miss the dream sequence of Song as a wrestling, and singing, Elvis, who takes on his boss with gusto, flares a-flapping? If that doesn’t move you, there’s his attempts to strengthen himself in preparation, with a weightlifting session that goes horribly awry. Or being forced by the coach’s daughter to maintain the horse stance (a half-crouch used in lots of martial arts training) until his legs go to jelly. This film has some of the best visual humour I’ve seen, as well as a refusal to take the obvious path in a lot of situations.
This is one of the best examples of Korean film-making out there, and I think it’s one of the best films I’ve seen. It’s funny, touching, warm, and always surprising, and if you don’t see it when you’ve got the chance, you’ll miss out on a damn fine piece of cinema.