Goo-reu-meul beo-eo-nan dal-cheo-reom (Blades of Blood) (2010)






Director:     .

Starring:     Jeong-min Hwang (Hwang Jeong-hak), Seung-won Cha (Lee Mong-hak), Ji-hye Han (Baek-ji), Seong-hyeon Baek (Gyeon-ja), Chang-wan Kim (Seon-jo), Young-chang Song (Han Shin-kyun), Gyu-su Jeong, Jeong-geun Sin (Lord Yoo), Seung-yong Ryoo (Lord Jung), Hae-Yeong Lee (Han Pil-joo), Yang Yeong-jo (Lee Jang-gak), Yun-ho Park (Ahn Bong-seok), Yeong-seok Lee (Eunuch Kim), Bo-yeon Kim, Sang-ho Kim (Park Dol-seok).

late 1500s; two swordsmen face off with another swordsman who is trying to make himself the new king of the land of Korea


Spoiler Warning:

Korea.  A middle-aged man,  Han Shin-kyun, says to disband the alliance   A younger man, Jung Yul-ip, asks then who will stop the Japanese?  Still another man says that the King knows it's an excuse to build an army.  Jung Yul-ip says that the King is taking sides and playing power games.  "Can this inept government stop the Japanese?"  The middle-aged man tells Jung Yul-ip again to disband the alliance.  Han Shin-kyun and his two assistants leave.

Another man says that the conservative West Cabinet will do anything to win the King's favor.  They can frame Jung Yul-ip for treason. And their liberal East Cabinet will have to suffer the consequences.  Jung says:  "I'm not the East or the West."  Now three more men leave the conversation. 

Jung says they need to stop the Japanese, but pushing the Japanese out won't free them from all these power schemes going on in the palace.  So he suggests that they strike. The blind-man Hwang asks if this is talk of a revolt?  A man named Lee Mong-Hak says that if they are killed fighting the Japanese, then they cannot change the government at all. 

Jung was accused of being a traitor and had committed suicide.  But that's not punishment enough.  His body has been packed in ice and now the executioner slices off the traitor's head.  Furthermore, the traitor's property is confiscated, and his children and accomplices, will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  And not even this is enough punishment.  The traitor's body will be cut up into pieces and will be hanged up across the land. 

People look at three pikes with three severed heads atop them.  Someone says:  "The Grand Alliance is a joke.  It' always all talk. No real result."  Someone says this was the work of Han Sin-Gyun.  And now they are kicking out the East Cabinet to keep the palace under control.  A man dressed in a blue robe says that Han Sin-Gyun is a bastard.  A young boy named Han gets up from where he was sitting and calls all three men dressed in blue robes (Confucian scholars) "idiots".   The speaker of the criticism now says isn't that boy the bastard son of Han Sin-Gyun defending his bastard father.  The young fellow is insulted and now starts beating up the speaker.  Some men try to stop the assault, but the young fellow just pushes them out of the way.  Han doesn't stop until he hits the speaker with a club and knocks him out. 

The young man is thrown into a jail cell.  A jailer comes to release the young fellow saying that the guy sure must have a powerful family because he is getting out of jail.  Han says he hit some Confucian scholars and he deserves to be punished.  He says he's staying.  Hwang tells the young man to come out because today is the memorial. 

In a procession, a group  of men starts across a bridge.  The man at the head of the procession says make way for Lord Song.  But they are stopped by Lee Mong-Hak on the other side of the bridge who raises his sword.  Swordsmen attack the person, but Lee Mong-Hak quickly dispatches with the swordsmen.  Lord Song says to Lee that Jung Yul-ip was a traitor and deserved to die.  Lee replies:  "In my eyes you're the traitors, bringing the country to ruin."  The man calls Lee an "imbecile" and Lee kills Lord Song. 

At the memorial, the young man Han is going to break with tradition.  Another man tries to stop him and the young man says:  "I'm Han Gyeon-Ja, 18th generation of the Han household."  A group of attendees grabs Han and throws him out of the ceremony. 

Hwang takes a walk, but he is stopped by a group of men who say that Hwang can't go this way.  So Hwang proceeds to knock all the men into the water.  He tells the very last man standing to:  "Bring me Jung's head."

The men who dragged Han away from the memorial service tie him down and now beat him.  Another man arrives and halts the beating.  He then tells Han:  "A concubine's bastard child dares to honor our ancestors?"  Han talks back to the man, who then takes a stand and hits Han with it.  The stand breaks in half.  The men now leave Han alone and walk away.

The middle-aged man comes in and starts to release Han from his constraints.  Han tells the man that no one knows his name.  They all just call him the "bastard" and a "mutt".  The older man says:  "If you listen to them, then you are a mutt."  He calls Han a coward, for their King himself is a concubine's son.  "Without dreams, you're only a mutt."   

The people who were at the memorial are now having a dinner.  Suddenly, they are attacked by a large group of men with swords.  The swordsmen start killing the attendees right and left. Then Lee Mong-Hak shows up.  He goes over to the middle-age man and tells him:  "You will pay for the death of Jung Yul-ip.  The Grand Alliance will have justice."  The older gentleman, Han's father, asks if the East Cabinet is behind this?  Lee kills the man with his sword, saying:  "I am neither East nor West." 

Han saw the killing of his father by Lee.  After Lee and his men leave, Han rushes up on the porch to mourn for his father. 

Hwang asks Lee:  " . . . since when was the Alliance yours?"  Hwang thinks that maybe it was Lee who actually killed Jung Yul-ip.  He asks Lee who really killed their leader?  Lee warns Hwang not to come around here anymore, or he himself will have to kill the sensei. 

Han goes after Lee, but Lee wounds the man with his sword. 

Factions within the Cabinet argue about whether or not the Japanese are coming. 

By taking care of Han's wound, Hwang saves the young man's life.

Lee talks with two advisors.  Lee wants to attack the District Hall, but one of the advisors is opposed to the idea.  One of the advisors calls Lee a "foolish man".  He adds:  "We formed the Alliance to fight the Japanese, not the King."  Lee retorts with a question:  "Can we stop the Japanese with such a rotten government?"  The advisor says that's why the Alliance was formed -- to save the country.  Lee kills the man by slitting his throat then he asks if the other advisor is with him?  The other advisor wisely says:  "With you."

Han asks Hwang why did the sensei save his life?  Hwang says that Han wants to kill Lee Mong-Hak and he, the sensei, does too. 

Lee talks with his staff about attacking the Yongin district hall.  [Yongin is a major city in the Seoul Capital Area, located in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.]

Bounty hunters are out for the 3,000 on the head of Mong-Hak.  They ask the blind man and Han where is Mong-Hak?   Hwang says he doesn't know.  The bounty hunters don't want any competitors, so they decide to kill the two innocents.  The blind man, however, defeats both of the bounty hunters and wounds them enough to keep them out of action for awhile. 

Later Han tries to knock out Hwang with a stick from behind the blind man.  Sensei side steps the blow and hits Han a number of times with his walking stick.  Han now goes down on his knees to Hwang and begs him to teach him how to fight.  Hwang just tells the lad that learning how to fight with a sword will only get Han killed before his time.  Han says to let him decide when to fight and when to die.  Sensei just tells Han to lead the way. 

The two fellows stop at night and an inn/restaurant.  The Geisha type gals (known as gisaeng) are happy to see the sensei.  He explains to Han that the woman Baek-Ji is Mong-Hak's girl.

Cho-Yung  waits on Hwang and Baek-Ji waits on Han.  Han asks Baek-Ji where is Lee Mong-Hak?  She doesn't want to tell him.  Later Han asks the woman again where is Lee Mong-Hak?  Baek-Ji says he's right here in her heart.  Then she asks Han to kill Lee for her. 

Lee Mong-Hak and his men attack the Governor's place.  Lee tells the man to free the prisoners and open his stores. 

The King asks how could his men let Lee Mong-Hak attack a district hall?  The governor he killed was one of theirs.  A man in  a blue robe says that their East Cabinet will destroy the Alliance.  A Baron says but Lee killed a West Cabinet member first.  The King can't believe the Baron is choosing sides at this important time.  He tells the Baron to take some men and bring Lee Mong-Hak back to him. 

Hwang and Han are going to Ansung to see the metalsmith.  Cho-Yung asked Hwang to take their chamber pots to the metalsmith and tell him they need new chamber pots.  Hwang agrees, but it's Han who actually has to carry the pots on his back. 

"By royal decree, the district hall of Yongin is now the prison of Lee Mong-Hak and the Grand Alliance!  Pyongbaek, Yongin, Osan and Chungju  -- we will ransack all the nearby districts to catch Lee and his accomplices!"

The word on the street is that Han Pil-Ju is arresting Alliance soldiers.  He got Lim Chu-Min. 

Lee tells his men to go to the metalsmith at Ansung and bring the new weapons back. 

Hwang and Han arrive at the metalsmith.  The metalsmith likes the ideas of Lee Mong-Hak, but Hwang says that the man is just using the Alliance to become King himself.  Hwang now asks the metalsmith where is Lee?  The metalsmith won't say. 

Lee's men are now working in the metalsmith's shop on the weapons.  Han takes a look-see.  Hwang says that if they wait here, Lee will come to them. 

Baek-Ji comes to see Lee.  She gives him a big kiss and a hug.  Lee tells her to leave this place.  She says that she's scared that Lee will die.  Lee tells her that she might die if she stays here.

The metalsmith did not melt the chamber pots.  He tells Han to just tell the women that he did melt down the pots and remade them.  He is anxious to get the two men out of here, because Lee's men are arriving to take the new weapons back to Lee.  But Hwang is staying behind to wait for Lee.  When the group arrives Hwang thinks that the leader is Lee, but Lee is not even there.  The metalsmith tells his old friend that Lee is not with his men, but Hwang doesn't believe him.  The two men struggle with each other, until the Baron's men flood into the area.  The fight is on!

Han arrives with the pots and tells Cho-Yung that he has to return immediately.  But then, some of Lee's men arrive to bind and take away Baek-Ji.  Han tells them to stop it.  The officer asks if Han is involved with the Alliance too?  He knocks Han down and then starts kicking him.  After a short while, Han gets up and knocks the officer down.  Now Han has to fight off the other men.  Han gets a sword and kills the next two men.   The last man now attacks and is about to dispatch Han when Baek-Ji kills the man from behind.  Now Cho-Young tells the two survivors to run away right now.  She pushes them to start getting them to run. 

Han and Baek-Ji arrive back at the metalsmith's place.  Hwang is still waiting there.  He asks Han why does he smell blood and perfume?  Han remains silent. 

The Japanese arrive in Korea.  The King is furious, yelling:  "15,000 Japanese invaded Busan, you idiots!"  One man says that Lord Yu said they weren't coming.  Lord Yu says they will stop the Japanese.  But the factions can't agree on who should be the army commander and the naval commander.  The King says Admiral Lee will be the naval commander.

Kyung Chuk Office.  Lee asks when will the Japanese reach Seoul?  One man says in about a month.  Another person says it will be in two weeks.  The sentiment is that they must strike the Japanese before they get to Seoul

The sensei, Han and Baek-Ji travel in search of Lee.  They are going to Yongin where the whole Alliance is being arrested.  Hwang says to get rid of the girl for she's a heavy load.  So Han tells her to stop following them.  She says she's not following them.  She herself is going to see Lee Mong-Hak.  Han pulls out his sword to force her to stay back, but she puts the blade up to her throat and tells Han to kill her first. 

So Han and Baek-Ji travel together.  Hwang is somewhere ahead of them.  Baek-Ji tells Han that he cannot kill Lee, because Han has no dream.  Han cries.  Baek-Ji comes over to comfort him.  She holds him. 

Alone Hwang is sad thinking about the current fighting going on between the government and the Grand Alliance.  He says:  "The world has gone mad.  Grand Alliance, Grand Alliance.  Does the world we dreamed of even exist?"

There is a mass execution of Grand Alliance supporters about to take place.  But here comes Lee and his men to save the day.  They push the government troops back until they realize that now they are caught in a trap consisting of giant netting.  From the tops of buildings, government archers start shooting arrows into one Grand Alliance soldier after another.  After cutting the nets in many places, the Grand Alliance soldiers get themselves free.  Now the two commanders, the Baron and Lee, start fighting each other.  Lee wins.  He then finishes the job of killing his opponent after the Baron called him a traitor.

Hwang has arrived in the area.  Lee sees him in the crowd and tells his men to make way for the man.  Hwang says he has one question for Lee.  Lee did kill Yul-ip, didn't he?  Lee pauses but does say yes.  Hwang says that Lee only used the Alliance to become king.  Lee answers that's true.  The fight begins.  Lee stabs the sensei, who says:  "Mong-Hak.  Don't go to Seoul. . . . This dream will kill us all."  Now Mong-Hak pulls his sword out of the sensei's body.  Hwang collapses to his knees. 

Han shows up and runs to his sensei, but there is nothing he can do for the man.  Hwang dies and Han cries over the body.  Han takes the man's sword and tells Baek-Ji:  "Let's go to Seoul."

By now Lee runs an immense army of men. 

The latest news for General Lee is that General Shin lost at Chungju.  The Japanese will be here in a couple of days. Let's go to Seoul.  Bong-Suk says he refuses to go to Seoul because it would abandon the people here to the whims of the Japanese.  He says he's staying and Lee stabs him to death.

The King abandons Seoul.  Lee moves toward Seoul. 

Lee and his men reach Seoul and the palace.  The word is that the Japanese have passed the south gate.  Lee's troopers say they will stay and defend the palace against the Japanese.  Meanwhile, Lee is slowly approaching Han and Baek-Ji. 

Han comes forward to challenge Lee and the battle begins.  Han is able to inflict a nasty cut on Lee's throat on the left side.  Blood starts flowing out from the wound.  Lee now gives Han a cut on his back.  Then Lee knocks Han down on the floor.

The Japanese with muskets at the ready engage in a showdown with the troops of the Grand Alliance.  The Japanese open fire and the front ranks of the Grand Alliance are mowed down. 

Lee and Han hear the musket fire, but they are still fighting their own battle.  Lee looks back and sees his second-in-command with a spear run through his body.  Han uses the opportunity to run Lee through with his sword.  Lee falls on his knees.  He pulls the sword out of his body.  Baek-Ji runs to him.  She tells him that she is not a part of that dream of his, but he is a part of her dream.  We meet in our dreams.  Lee dies.

The Japanese come close and Han starts sword fighting with some of the Japanese.  He's a little too good so they shoot Han twice in the back. 

In a boat, Baek-Ji plays a tune on an instrument while she also sings.  With her in the boat is the spirit of her lover Lee Mong-Hak. 


Good movie, but read the historical background first before viewing, because the movie doesn't explain the political situation in Korea in the late1500s.  Korea at the time was politically divided into lots of factions.  So when it came time to make a decision, there was always a fight between the factions.  That made it tough on the King who had to make the final decision.  The internal divisions just made it harder for Korea to have a unified front to fight the Japanese invasions of which there were two in real life.  Within this larger setting, two men, a blind man and very young man, decide to kill another man who is using a group called the Grand Alliance to make himself King in Korea.  A young woman who loves the want-to-be-king fellow goes along with the two men to find the one man.  There is not a lot of action in the film, but there's enough to be satisfying (except for those who want to see a real blood bath and lots and lots of fighting and swordsmanship). 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1392-1897  --  reign of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea.

15671608  --  reign of Yi Yeon (aka, Seonjo), 14th Joseon ruler.

Two scholars serving the government were Sim Ui-gyeom and Kim Hyowon. Sim was a conservative, while Kim called for liberal reforms.  Around the scholars two separate factions arose, headed by Sim and Kim. Sim's faction lived on west side of the city while Kim's followers gathered on the east side, hence the names of the Western Faction and the Easterners.  This two-faction based political system lasted 200 years. 

Sim's indecisiveness helped the Easterners take power, and the Westerners fell out of favor.  Then the Eastern group divided in Northern and Southern factions.  This was followed by the Northern faction becoming divided into a radical and a liberal part.  The political divisions caused the nation to be weakened.  Two delegates, one from the Western and one from the three Eastern faction, were sent to Japan to find out if Japan was preparing to attack Korea.  The Western man said the Japanese were preparing for military action, but the Eastern man said they were not.  Since the Eastern factions were stronger, the King did not prepare for war. 

1592-1598  -- the Japanese invasion of Korea.  About 700 Japanese ships under Konishi Yukinaga invaded Korea.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi,, Japan's second great unifier" marshaled his forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea.  He was repelled by "righteous armies", the Korean Army and Navy, and assistance from Ming China. This war also saw the rise of the career of Admiral Yi Sun-sin with the "turtle ship".  Yi Sun-sin's naval genius has been compared by  military historians with the naval genius of England's Admiral Horatio Nelson.  At the Battle of Myeongnyang, where the Admiral was outnumbered 133 warships to 13, but he managed to sink 33 of the Japanese warships and win the victory.  He died at the Battle of Noryang on December 16, 1598, mortally wounded by a bullet.

There was an initial invasion in 1592, a brief ceasefire in 1596 and a second invasion in 1597. 

1592 (April-May 10)  --  Japanese Konishi Yukinaga occupied Seoul, which had been the capital of Joseon Dynasty of Korea.

Korea finally won the war against Japan with the help of the Chinese. "Korea lost a large portion of its military strength and faced enormous financial difficulties as a result of the war taking place almost entirely on its soil. It also lost a large portion of its civilian population to both warfare and famine."

1608  --  death of King Seonjo. 

(Source: Wikipedia articles.)



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