A Korean fire-fighter dies unexpectedly, and is then faced with passing the 7 trials of hell – helpfully judged by the 7 hell gods – as he passes through the Afterlife. To help him pass the trials are three afterlife guardians, each with their own skill and abilities, and only with their help can he prove himself a honourable human and reincarnate.
We open to find the lead of our film falling to his death having just jumped through a very high window of a burning, clutching a small child he has saved. This is not only where the film starts, but also the journey for our unfortunately lead, as he is met by two of the three “guardians” who take him to the “Gate of the Afterlife” to be judged in the 7 courts of hell. Now, anyone who has ever watched “Inferno” or seen the painting of the same name by Dante, will know about the “7 layers of hell”. What this film does is rather than regurgitate that, it takes a different view by setting each “hell” as a courtroom, for which the life of the person in question is judged (be it for “murder” (directly or indirectly), “violence” or “greed”) and subsequently sentenced if found guilty. What surprised me during some of these court scenes was how balanced they were, combining classic Asian slapstick humour with some very emotional themes.
The film then digresses and focuses on the lead’s brother for a while, and in turn we find out more about the brother, the lead, and the guardians themselves, which only adds to the depth of the plot. Thankfully, the film hovers very nicely between “whispy plot-lines” and “laying it on too thick”, meaning you can switch off for a moment or two and still understand where the plot is later on. That being said, like any foreign film, the dialog comes thick and fast, so make sure you don’t switch off for too long.
My only gripe would be that the latter “gods” are a bit washed over, the reasoning behind this is just a cursory sentence from one of the guardians, and then the film moves onto the next god. It would’ve been nice to actually see all the gods in action, but then I suppose it would’ve been a bit same-y.
who should watch it?
I’m a big fan of foreign films – especially those emanating from Asia – as they tend to have rawness that is seldom seen in the big films that come of Hollywood. This film is no different, however it improves upon it by means of clever scripting, decent special effects (which is usually hard to come by outside of Hollywood), and what is, at times, quite an emotional story-line. It’s engaging from start to finish, and if you enjoy watching foreign films, then this should definitely be on your watch-list.