After I binged on Netflix’s Korean zombie series Kingdom in one sitting, my good friend Glaiza, a fellow Korean drama enthusiast, tipped me off on a movie with a similar premise. “Rampant” big name Korean stars Hyun Bin and Jang Dong Gun in a saeguk film about a political manuever that escalates into a zombie epidemic at the Palace.
Synopsis: After sacrificing his life to protect his followers, Crown Prince Lee Young (Kim Tae Woo) sends a missive to his younger brother Prince Ganglim (Hyun Bin) to take the pregnant crown princess to the Qing dynasty. His brother wants to protect his wife from ministers in the Palace who are plotting to take over Joseon. Upon arrival, the prince clashes with his father and experiences the treachery of the Minister Kim (Jang Dong Goon), the minister of war as he forsakes the infected “monsters” beyond the Palace walls. As the disease afflicts the King, the reluctant heir to the throne takes charge of a final stand to get rid of the zombie scourge and protect the citizens of his kingdom.
Because Rampant has only two hours to tell its story of political turmoil at the palace as well as a zombie apocalypse plaguing its people, it is understandable that the film tells its story at a faster pace. That’s not a problem for Train to Busan director Yeon Sang Ho who also helms this movie.
Rampant illustrates the evolution of Prince Ganglim’s character from a happy go lucky second son to the leader of the campaign against the monsters that threaten his people. The good thing about Ganglim is that from the onset, it was already established that he was an excellent swordsman and he wasn’t shocked easily so they didn’t waste a lot of time with the Prince coming to terms with origins of the demons that he encountered.
This was the first time that I saw Jang Dong Goon portray a villain but I really was not surprised that he was given a major chunk of the story. From a scheming war minister to a crazed zombie general, he just wouln’t quit. Props to the stunt team for this film, because that extended battle scene with a swarm of zombies had me tied up in knots. I was just so tired from watching the prince engage in a lone assault against a horde of zombies who wanted his blood. The sheer amount of the zombies in close up mode and the fluid transitioning to aerial shots to illustrate the volume of the infected was a great touch to communicate the hopelessness of the situation.
As with Korean saeguk dramas, the film managed to incorporate some dramatic elements to Rampant as the prince came to terms with his destiny to take the throne. While it was a bit of a hard sell when Park Eul Ryeong said his final words pertaining to Ganglim’s destiny just as he was about to turn, the film still managed to execute the scene without fully going overboard about the heroics. One of the best scenes however, was Ganglim’s scene with Hak Su, his loyal attendant, because it was the first time that he let go of his happy go lucky persona and showed cracks of the upright character he had deep within.
All in all, Rampant had great production value and practical effects that worked. The politics outweighed the horror and action parts but the final 30 minutes more than amped up the excitement value of the film. Rampant was a good movie and while it had a similar premise as Kingdom, the two productions could not be compared. They own had their unique styles of storytelling that worked well for their platform.