The Pirates (2014) – By Duane L. Martin

In 1388 a military leader decided to commit treason in order to take over and form a new Korean dynasty which ultimately came to be known as the Joseon Dynasty.  When Captain Jang figured out what was going on and his sense of honor wouldn’t allow him to go along with it, he left the army, though they attempted to kill him as he left.  Ultimately he survived, took the name Crazy Tiger and formed a gang of bandits.

Yeo-wol is second in command on a pirate ship.  She’s as beautiful as she is tough and deadly, and she’s also popular with the crew.  When they come to discover that their captain is making a deal with a corrupt official to turn several of them over for execution, she commits mutiny and ultimately takes over the ship.

When the pirates attacked a government transport ship carrying a new royal seal from the emperor along with the name he’d given their new kingdom of Joseon, the royal seal was lost and swallowed by a whale.  Now two officials have been charged with hunting down the whale and retrieving it, and as such they’re not only using their own navy, but they’ve cut a deal with the pirates, now led by Yeo-wol, saying that if they don’t help them get the seal back, they’ll kill them, their families and anyone who’s ever helped them.

When Crazy Tiger and his bandits find out about the seal, they set out to find it as well.  Unfortunately, they know nothing about the sea, but are aided by an inept, former member of the pirate crew who fled when he found out the original captain was planning on selling them out.  Now the race is on to find the whale and retrieve the seal.  Will they be able to retrieve it?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Let me just start off by saying, I LOVE South Korean films.  Far and away they make the best films coming out of Asia, and out of all of the films I’ve seen from there, I can count on maybe one or two fingers the number of them that I didn’t really enjoy all that much, and even those weren’t horrible.  As for this film, The Pirates, I know the description I gave above makes it sound like a serious film, and yes, it does have it’s serious moments, but my god…this film is just one hell of a lot of fun.  It’s got everything you could possibly want in a film.  There’s awesome action, romance, humor and an entertaining story with characters you can actually care about.

When the film opened with the scene where Captain Jang Sa-jung refuses to go along with their general’s treason, I actually thought it was going to be a serious film.  As it turns out, that scene was simply used to explain how he ended up becoming a bandit and taking the name Crazy Tiger.   About the best comparison I can make would be to compare it to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, where there’s serious parts mixed with humor and light hearted action.  This film has the same sort of a vibe to it.

One of the things I loved especially about this film was that the bandits were skilled at their trade, but not immune from making mistakes, and when they set out to sea in search of the whale, not only did none of them have any experience with the sea (except for the former pirate who was helping them), but they didn’t even really understand what a whale actually was or how big they were, which led to a rather amusing scene where they accidentally caught a shark and were celebrating because they thought it was a whale, despite their pirate guide trying to tell them otherwise.

Not only was the film itself highly entertaining, but the production values were first rate, as they always are in South Korean productions.  Everything from the costuming to the CGI to the set design all looked spectacular, and when you combine those elements with incredible cinematography and tight editing, you end up with a film that’s an absolute winner.

This new release from Well Go USA doesn’t have any special features other than the film’s trailer, which really bummed me out.  A movie this spectacular simply begs for “making of” featurettes and such, but that’s not Well Go USA’s fault.  Those have to be created by the folks who made the film, and I guess they just didn’t bother doing it.

As with all releases from Well Go USA, the sound and visual quality of the blu-ray release is virtually perfect.  It looks and sounds amazing and I really can’t recommend this release enough.  The film is in Korean and I know some people don’t like foreign films because they don’t like reading subtitles, but believe me, even for those people, this film is a must see.  Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a copy too add to your collection.  You won’t regret it.  I can see myself watching this film many more times in the future just because it’s so much fun.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website at: http://www.wellgousa.com/the-pirates