15 April 2020

K Movie Review: Spin Kick (2004) 4

Spin Kick is my third K movie after My Sassy Girl and Juror 8 (Park Hyung Sik). I just realized today that I did not write a review for Juror 8. I can't recall why. Perhaps I was busy? Or it did not really make an impact on me? I vaguely remember being disappointed because the movie was not that faithful to the real story. Yeah, I get the need for artistic license but I would have preferred something closer to reality. So, this will be my first K movie review. :)

Source: https://trakt.tv/movies/spin-kick-2004


The movie (released in 2004) is about high school kids and taekwondo. Manseh High School used to be known for its taekwondo program. But over the years, things have changed and it was now a cellar dweller. The taekwondo coach (Park Jung Hak as Coach Koh) resigned and moved to another school with a more competitive team. The coach tried to bring with him Manseh's best taekwondo jin, Min Gyu (Hyun Bin), but the latter refused. 

Manseh could not attract students to join the taekwondo team. Out of desperation, the school had to resort to coercion to recruit student athletes. A group of gangsters/thug students were put to jail due to initiating some riots. The school agreed to set these students free if they join the taekwondo team. 

Next challenge was finding a coach. The team's student manager/intern, Soo Bin (Jo An), asks an alumnus of the school, Chung Geun (Kim Young Ho, the evil law partner in the Korean version of Suits), to coach the team. When he was still a student, Chung Geun was a substitute of the team who gained popularity because he beat Coach Koh once when the latter underestimated Chung Geun's size. Chung Geun went on to coach kids who ended up leaving him. Manseh's principal did not really like Chung Geun but he had no other choice. 

Aspiring members of the taekwondo team underwent extensive training with Chung Geun. In the end, only 5 were left - Min Gyu, Yong Gaek (Kim Dong Wan, the leader of the thugs), Jung Dae (Jin Tae Hyun, who got his girlfriend, Mi Ae (Park Ji Yeon) pregnant), Hyuk Soo (Moon Ji Yoon, who passed away in March at a very young age), and Sung Wan (Jeon Jae Hyeong who was the team's perpetual sub). 

The team joined the qualifiers and they successfully (albeit somehow illegally) made it to the National Taekwondo Competition. However, Hyuk Soo was disqualified because he asked some gangsters to threaten the athletes of the other teams. These gangsters even brought knives with them to the stadium. Manseh should have been disqualified too but the other coaches agreed that it would have been embarrassing for all of them if that happened. 

There was tension between Min Gyu and Yong Gaek. Min Gyu was the team captain, being the best athlete in the team. But the coach replaced him with Yong Gaek due to his discouraging behavior towards his teammates. At one point, Min Gyu wanted to quit the team but he decided to stay on. 

The team needed 5 members and with Hyuk Soo's disqualification, they needed another one. A male ballet dancer (Suk Bong portrayed by Lee Ki Woo) crashes into the hall where the taekwondo team holds their trainings. Being tall and flexible enough to do taekwondo moves, Chung Geun recruits Suk Bong to the team. 

The coach miraculously helps the team gel together. Min Gyu was still aloof but at least he and Yong Gaek were no longer on the verge of killing each other. Although Yong Gaek and Jung Dae initially just signed up for the qualifiers, they decided to stay on until the nationals. Yong Gaek said he wanted to change something and he wanted to know what it meant to be a real man. 

The night before the National Competition, Yong Gaek gets injured while saving Hyuk Soo from guys they beat during the qualifiers. Although the two were not on good terms due to Hyuk Soo's disqualification, Yong Gaek still showed that he was a real friend by rescuing Hyuk Soo. Yong Gaek's right shoulder is injured. 

During the nationals, Masnseh again miraculously makes it to the finals. They were up against Coach Koh's team. Mi Ae had to be rushed to the hospital just before the final round. It's revealed that she was not actually pregnant but had some serious illness. Jung Dae initially wanted to leave, leaving the team short of one member. Coach Chung Geun said it was still possible for the team to win if they win on the fourth round. Otherwise, they will be disqualified. 

Min Gyu finds out that Yong Gaek's injured but agrees to be quiet about it. The coach also finds out about the injury eventually and he wanted to forfeit the matches because his player's welfare was more important to him. In any case, even if they don't forfeit, they could still be disqualified if the judges find out about the injury. Yong Gaek insists that he will compete until the end. Not only because losing was not part of his vocabulary, but also because taekwondo was the thing that changed him and he now knew what it was that he wanted to change. Coach Chung Geun reluctantly agrees to let him fight and he tells Yong Gaek that what Yong Gaek was doing showed what it really meant to be a man. 

Jung Dae returns to the stadium instead of going to Mi Ae after Soo Bin convinces him that what Mi Ae really wanted was for him to win. 

At the end of the fourth round, the 2 schools are tied 2-2. Min Gyu and Sung Wan won their respective matches. I was so happy for Sung Wan because his only wish was to win one match. 

Yong Gaek was the last one for Manseh and he was up against this really obnoxious guy. Min Gyu could have sulked because as captain and arguably the best jin in the team, he should have been given this spot. But showing true sportsmanship and taking one for the team, Min Gyu helps Yong Gaek by telling him about their opponent's tactics and weakness and that he would give Yong Gaek a signal if it was time to attack. 

In the end, Yong Gaek and Manseh won. :)


Hyun Bin did not really have a chance to show off his acting skills here. His character called for a stiff, serious, and emotionless guy. He did have some angry moments especially during his fight scenes with Yong Gaek. The fight and martial arts scenes were done really well and were very convincing. Although I felt that his anger tended to be on the overacting side. I'm proud that Hyun Bin has progressed big time with his controlled acting in CLOY. 

This film was presumably shot before Ireland so we're getting a much younger and boyish version of Hyun Bin here. His hairstyle was more agreeable with me compared to his Ireland look. It's amazing how more matured he looked on Ireland compared to this one considering that the time difference between the two would have only been a couple of months. From high school student to a guy probably in his mid to late 20s. The transition was really impressive. 

And what I loved most about Hyun Bin's role here is that there was some real ass kicking. Astig. And with topless and dancing Hyun Bin as bonuses. My eyes really feasted on this one. :) 

Kim Dong Wan was also a revelation. If I watched this first before CLOY, I would have probably ended up liking him over Hyun Bin. I love the tisoy look. And he also handled the gangster/angry guy character really well. Even his drama scenes were well done. It's sad to note though that among all the actors on the movie, I think only Hyun Bin really rose to stardom. I've done very minimal research on this though but I felt that with Dong Wan's acting here, he could have done more. Not sure if his height could have been a factor. 

The other actors were just as good for me. The new coach played the loser-but-yearning-to-be-a-winner role really well. The other gangsters were likeable too. They were annoying at the beginning but they grew on me after I saw that they had their own struggles too (especially Jung Dae). They warmed up to me in a way I hoped Jae-bok did in Ireland. 

Did I like it?

I would have to say, yes. Outside of Hyun Bin, I might not have given this film a chance. It was about martial arts, something I'm not really interested in. But thanks to this Hyun Bin addiction, I was able to discover this good film and now I'm seriously contemplating about having my son take taekwondo lessons. :D

Martial arts might not be that interesting a topic but the life lessons you get from this film are worth it. I love how it depicted gangsters as humans with serious problems and how you need to go to the root of their issues and how it is possible for them to change given the right motivation and encouragement. I love the sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, and camaraderie that taekwondo taught these guys. 

One review I read was right. This film had Mighty Ducks feels. And I loved the over-all good vibes it radiated. 

I'm happy that although there were some dramatic parts (like the Manseh students arriving at the stadium just in time to catch the last match of the finals or Jung Dae deciding to go back to compete), they were given just the right amount of drama. Nothing overly, weepy dramatic. 

I also liked how they injected the ballet dancer storyline. It was a subtle yet impactful way of showing acceptance and being inclusive. 

I was also impressed with how the movie did not force any love team/triangle. It was obvious that there was some tension among Min Gyu, Yong Gaek, and Soo Bin but I'm glad that the movie did not really focus on this. It showed just enough to stir some excitement but not too much that it would take away the viewer's attention from the main plot. 

Music was not so prominent here. Probably because music was not really needed in action scenes? I vaguely recall that music was not that big either in Juror 8. Does this mean music is more widely used in K dramas than movies? Although I remember Sassy Girl for Pachelbel's canon. I guess I need to watch more K movies to figure this one out. 

Yes, the story was simple. But it successfully avoided what I found problematic in Ireland. Because the movie focused on very simple and few issues, it was able to handle all of these properly and in a well-balanced manner. Unlike Ireland which wanted to cover a lot. This movie is a perfect example of what my radio scriptwriting professor told me when he critiqued my script - focus on a simple topic that's close to your heart and you're very familiar with. If you try to write about something you're not that knowledgeable about, your audience will see through it and will not like the shallow story and characters you will be feeding them. So yes, let's keep things simple and radiate good vibes like these young losers-turned-winners showed us in this movie. 

I wonder...if I successfully finish watching and reviewing all of these Hyun Bin shows and films, could I get some sort of post graduate degree with my reviews compiled as a final paper on a comparative analysis of Hyun Bin's evolution as an actor? :D

Noona says...it's a 4.