After the sudden and violent death of his police officer father, mixed martial arts champion, Yong-hoo, has a complete disdain for God from a young age now that both his parents have perished. Growing up angry and swarmed with negative thoughts, Yong-hoo goes through life without much of a purpose until he awakes from vivid dream with the wound of stigmata on his hand. Unable to stop the bleeding by means of conventional medicine, he resorts to a shaman who convinces him to seek out Father Ahn, an elder priest experienced at practicing the rite of exorcism, and learns that the wound and Father’s once unwavering benevolence provide a divine weapon against a growing covenant of demons under the black magic of a Dark Bishop. Together, Yong-hoo and Father Ahn combat the forces of evil before the possession runs rampant in the city.
South Korea packs a punch with an action-packed take on possession and exorcism with Kim Joo-hwan’s “The Divine Fury.” The 2019 released film that blends horror with the cinematic formulas of the comic book universe films is written and directed by Joo-hwan and produced by Studio 706, KeyEast, and Lotte Entertainment, the latter being a subsidiary of one of the largest Asia conglomerates and a leader in the Asian film industry. “The Divine Fury” isn’t low-rent horror, providing fans with salt of the earth martial arts, a range of diverse set locations, and a decent grade of special effects that range from stunt men quality to visual monstrosities, including a giant hell worm bristled with millions of arms and hands, and also gives a chance for Joo-hwan to showcase his junior horror-action that succeeds a 2017 buddy-comedy in “Midnight Runners” and a coming to terms drama in his 2013 film, Koala. One motif, and perhaps trademark, that runs through all of Joo-hwan’s written and directed films is the coupling of protagonists element and “The Divine Fury” is not an exception and follows the same coupling, if not slightly altered, mechanism.
A pair of actors from Bong Joon-ho’s award nomination buzzing “Parasite” also have a role “The Divine Fury,” one of them, Seo-joon Park, being the lead star of the Joo-hwan film as the MMA Godsend, Yong-hoo, with hate in his heart for the Lord Almighty. Yong-hoo’s a joy to watch on the screen as a character with an arch’s beginning as a young man, a mindless fighter, being verbally influenced over his shoulders by demon puppeteers to finding his lost father figure in a man who has an unflinching amount of faith. Seo-joon captures the defined struggle Yong-hoo has with God even in the face of pure demonic evil before him. An evil battled by Father Ahn, dolefully portrayed by “Sector 7’s” Sung-Ki Ahn. Sung-Ki fatherly performance places Yong-hoo into a role of humility, not only as a mentor, but with experience and patiences that resigns to trust rather than action. However, the dynamic goes both ways. Seo-joon shows lot of physical strength becoming unwittingly the “divine” warrior to thwart an insidious malevolency when Father Ahn is taken out of action due to Yong-hoo’s haste. Seo-joon had to quickly and naturally grow up his character to be the leading, brute force of experience and physicality and did just that as character faces off with the Dark Bishop, Ji-sin. Ji-sin invokes demons to inhabit those in a weak state of mind. This devilishness wouldn’t have been made possible without Do-Hwan Woo’s stoically sly and slimy confidence behind the character. The remaining cast rounds out with another “Parasite” actor, Woo-sik Choi, and Seung-Joon Lee.
“The Divine Fury” is fundamentally an essential oil extracted from the widely popular comic book universe money-making machines, that are sometimes also called movies from time-to-time, but “The Divine Fury” doesn’t have that monstrous platform of a narrative pulled directly from the illustrated pages of comic book franchise. Yet, the story builds a downtrodden, seeking-answers Seo-Joon with a tragic past and an ability to pulverize people – a winningly similar combination to any pre-defined hero in the Marvel character evolution. There’s also this theme of fatherhood and mentorship, like seen in “X-Men” with Professor X or “Blade” with Abraham Whistler. The latter of those two examples perhaps more closely resembles Father Ahn as the relation to the horror-action genre is similar in nature, but instead of abstaining from blood thirst, Seo-Joon is abstaining from letting God into his heart. Of course, “Blade” was ultra-violent and bloody and “The Divine Fury” is grossly more toned down with the exception of a few key moments of blood regurgitation. Speaking of effects, the visual effects waned from expectation and teetered more toward a rushed and unpolished look. They weren’t terrible, but not the best looking visual effects demons in the industry.
Well Go USA Entertainment brings the action of exorcism to Blu-ray and DVD home video with a dual format, two-disc release of “The Divine Fury.” Presented in a 1080p widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio and sheathed in a slipcover, “The Divine Fury” feels necessarily gritty in comparison to the subject material with a clean, almost sterile image that defines the blacks and colors, despite a short range of vivid hues the hues that are dominant are profoundly thick and dark. The limited color palette won’t be a problem as demons hide in the shadows and that’s where the story takes domain in scaffolding-laden churches, orphanage basements, and even a swanky neon-glowing club with a well of damnation beneath in the dungeon. The skin tones have a natural feel about them, but going against the grain of naturalism is the visual effects as aforementioned as they don’t render properly to exude the right viewer reaction. The Korean language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has ample weight. Whispering shadows of slithering speak and the bubbling of the, again, well of damnation emit the right kind of range and depth needed to descent into doom and gloom atmospherics. Dialogue is crystal clear and in prominent. An English dub is available, as well as English subtitles that errorless and well synced to the Korean dialogue track. There is some English during a MMA fight on the Korean track. Bonus material includes a rather generally spiced together making of featurette that includes mini segments such as prop commentary, special effects, behind-the-scenes look, and the construction of the antagonist world in “The Divine Fury. There are also a couple of trailer variants and a U.S. trailer for the film. Ultimately, “The Divine Fury” intrigues on the fray, desiring more into the backstory of Father Ahn and delving further into Seo-Joon’s weaponized stigmata and director Joo-hwan Kim teases just that with a taste of things to come with a short pre-credit scene that sets up “The Divine Fury” for more themes, perhaps, on a love-hate relationship with God, more, perhaps, finding suitable father figures, but, of course, there will be for sure more exorcizing ass-kicking of demons.