Sunday, December 3, 2023

Magic Is Real: Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman (2023) Reivew

Director: Kim Seong-sik

Notable Cast: Gang Dong-won, Heo Joon-ho, Esom, Lee Dong-hwi, Kim Jong-soo, Park So-yi, Yoon Byung-hee, Joo Bo-bi, Park Kyung-hye


Kim Seong-sik's directorial debut Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman is sure to be one of the sleeper hits of 2023. It’s a gorgeously directed horror-tinged swashbuckling adventure film filled to the brim with fun characters and great action.


Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman don't waste any time building the world around the characters or explaining too much. There is an exorcist who goes around dispelling fake curses and scheming folks out of their money. It's something we've seen before, but once things become reality, the film begins to happen. It kicks the story into overdrive, and we get to see the titular Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) showcase his real wizardry powers, which are imbued within a nifty-looking broken sword that he wields. Esom plays a woman with eyes that can see into the other realms of existence, and thus, the two pair up to stop a villain that is threatening their very existence.


The strength of the film, aside from the visual eye candy and consistent action set pieces, would be the tone. It sets up a world of fun but with a sense of horror lurking beneath. Cheon's assistant, played by the ever-funny Lee Dong-hwi who always nails the comedy roles, is a tech expert who helps the Doctor stage their scamming shows of trickery. He is skeptical of what begins to happen, even as he sees it with his own eyes. He has a fun, albeit simple arc and gets his moment to shine. The characters along the way aren't profoundly explored per se, but they are all memorable and serve to keep the adventure fun and engaging.


The action here features hand-to-hand, swordplay, and a plethora of special effects-driven moments that keep the momentum alive and the pacing exhilarating. There were many moments when I caught myself with a big smile on my face. I love a good action-adventure film, and with the elements of horror throughout, it appealed to all the sensibilities in me as a genre enthusiast. I was eating it up, and unexpectedly. I think the posters are a bit misleading. It made it seem like a family-friendly adventure, and while there certainly are more fun elements to be had here, there are several bits of horror; while maybe not too gruesome, they certainly don't shy away from blood and what you see being depicted on screen, and I respected that a lot.


The main villain isn't original either, but he has a certain aura and nails the creepy and powerful evil wizard aesthetic well. He is a formidable foe who helps keep the stakes high for our heroes as they navigate this dark and magical world to seek out a powerful talisman to aid them in their fight. Again, the film isn't entirely original. Still, the direction is so assured, and the style is so rich that it becomes the substance and very much an easily digestible piece of popcorn entertainment. I'm hoping the potential sequel gets greenlit.


Admittedly, I went into this one with sort of low expectations, but five minutes into the film, there is a Parasite reference and cameo by two of its stars (respect!). I had this gut feeling the movie was ramping up to be something fun, and indeed it was. Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman is the surprise Korean gem of the year and one that fans of genre filmmaking should not miss. It may just surprise you and find a way to your heart as well. It won me over, and I patiently await any potential this has to become a franchise. I need more. Highly recommended.


Written By Josh Parmer

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