Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Fantasia 2019: The Divine Fury

I want you to close your eyes and picture what Nicolas Winding Refn might dream of after binge-watching a double feature of The Exorcist and Road House on a full belly of chicken wings and soda pop. Then take whatever weirdness it is that you just imagined and transport it to Seoul, South Korea, and I think maybe perhaps you've started to have an idea and an inkling, both an idea and an inkling, of what The Divine Fury, a mixed-martial-arts demon-possession flick, has in store for you. It's something worth seeing.

I name-dropped Refn in there because I wanted to get across a seriousness and  an artfulness to the proceedings, which in lesser budgeted and lesser talented hands than The Divine Fury's director Kim Joo-hwan seems to have might've made this movie into grade-Z schlock. This ain't schlock. The Divine Fury looks expensive and is often really gorgeous to behold -- it feels like a particularly splatteriffic and neon-soaked YA movie about a wayward youth finding out they're The Chosen One; just here "The Chosen One" means "fighting possessed baddies with his magical stigmata fists of fury" instead of, like, shooting arrows at Julianne Moore.

Park Seo-jun, who'll be seen very soon everywhere (including the NYFF) in Bong Joon -ho's hotly anticipated flick Parasite, plays our sturdy leading man Yong-hu, who's had a crisis of faith ever since his religious cop father was murdered by hot-rodding youths and the prayer he'd been promised as a quick fix did no such thing. It's like Signs but with a litany of Linda Blairs running around instead of little green men, and they're all here only to teach the main character that Bigger Things Are Real, You Should Believe. And punch. Punch em' hard.

There are moments where the movie feels like a particularly bizarre adaptation of one of those garbage "faith-based" films we see semi-annually here in the States -- like a game of telephone where the cornball message of "the importance of prayer" got its wired crossed with a Hot Topic store hotline. Hell, I half expected to see Chrissy Metz vomiting pea soup, and how is that not a stone cold movie recommendation right there? (They can save that for the American remake.) The Divine Fury is the movie I wish Scott Derrickson's dour Deliver Us From Evil with Eric Bana could've been -- it's just solid entertainment without a single chip on its shoulder, slapping cage matches and Catholicism together into the absurd stew of this atheists's goofiest fever dreams.

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