Starring: Park Seo-joon, Ahn Sung-ki, Woo Do-hwan, Choi Woo-shik, Kim Si-eun
Director: Joo-hwan Kim
Writer: Joo-hwan Kim
God killed Papa. Get revenge for Papa.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a concept that’s so silly it loops around to being cool. The idea of a child whose father was killed by demons, who then grew up to become a famous MMA fighter, being enlisted by a priest to help him literally beat the Hell out of possessed people … that’s an idea I can get behind.
The Divine Fury is a slick and stylish action/horror by Joo-hwan Kim. As I mentioned, the movie opens with a young Yong-hoo (Park Seo-joon) whose father is killed. Yong-hoo resents the church after an altercation with a priest who was trying to console him. He channels that energy into fighting, eventually becoming a world-famous MMA champion. When a sore appears on his palm and starts to bleed—anyone who knows about Christian mythology or has seen that awful Gabriel Byrne movie will know he has stigmata—so he seeks out the church’s help.
The man he meets is Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-ki), a veteran of fighting possessions and someone who sees in Yong-hoo a person whom he can help and, more importantly, somebody who can help him. This push-and-pull of the relationship is very interesting and played well by Park and Ahn. Father Ahn is using Yong-hoo to a degree. Yong-hoo’s stigmatic hand can do cool tricks like set demon heads ablaze—but he also seems committed to healing the anger Yong-hoo feels towards God and himself.
This is the first film I’ve seen from Kim, but it makes me want to check out his previous work. The horror definitely outshines the fight scenes, mostly because there’s a lot more of it. There’s also just incredibly cool uses of CGI that are original enough not to feel too fake. A shadow on a wall that appears to be a demon made entirely of arms is the true standout image for me.
There are only a couple of fight scenes, but they’re good too. The best one happens in the finale when Yong-hoo faces off with the villain and his demonic goons. It’s an impressively shot set-piece, with a neon-lit and mirrored set that made me think about how annoying it must have been to shoot. Unfortunately, Yong-hoo’s big face-off was against a person who looked like they were wearing an early version of the sea creature suit from The Shape of Water. The fight itself was neat, but the effects left a little to be desired after how impressed I was with the earlier exorcism scenes.
I think that was probably why I was a little down on the final fight. I enjoyed the hell out of the few exorcisms we got throughout the film. It was fun to see Father Ahn being a classic exorcist while Yong-hoo was totally out of his element, denying God and only jumping in when a demon disparaged his dead father. My favorite segment of the film was a neat little riff on The Exorcist with a sort of … double-twist? I don’t want to ruin it, so I won’t say anymore.
Ultimately, the relationship between Father Ahn and Yong-hoo is the big draw here, and they’re perfect opposites without feeling like a clichéd team-up. Yong-hoo is all pent up anger and frustration, and Father Ahn is much calmer and easy-going. I trust Ahn when he spouts off about something ridiculous as if he were an expert. I also trust Yong-hoo not to believe a word of it but to be completely willing to punch whatever he’s told to.
I’d definitely like to see a sequel to The Divine Fury because it works really well episodically. In fact, the movie itself almost feels like the pilot of a TV show with a massive budget, which isn’t a knock against it. It’s absolutely a TV show I’d check out every week.