Review: THE CONCUBINE 후궁: 제왕의 첩 (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Review: THE CONCUBINE 후궁: 제왕의 첩 (2012)


As one of the most highly-anticipated South Korean blockbusters of the year, THE CONCUBINE has created an insane amount of media frenzy which mostly surrounded its graphic portrayal of sex and the nude scenes involving lead actress Jo Yeo-Jung (2010's THE SERVANT). All the aggressive marketing promotions revolved around THE CONCUBINE has certainly done an excellent job luring curious-minded viewers to find out what makes this movie such a big buzz at the first place. But thanks to its misleading approach, those who are expecting this movie to be an all-out erotic thriller will likely end up disappointed by its overall execution. It's also overrated, even though it remains worthwhile as an intense film noir disguised as a period drama that explores the disturbing nature of obsessive sexual needs, dark morality and psychological depths in a Shakespearean tragedy.

When Prince Sungwon (Kim Dong-Wook) first sees Hwa-Yeon (Jo Yeo-Jeong), the daughter of a wealthy nobleman (Ahn Seok-Hwan) for the first time, he quickly falls in love with her. But Hwa-Yeon faithfully loves Kwon-Yoo (Kim Min-Jun), a commoner which Hwa-Yeon's father doesn't particularly agrees with their relationship. So both Hwa-Yeon and Kwon-Yoo end up running away from their home especially when her father decides to send her to the royal palace as a concubine. But the two forbidden lovers get caught by Hwa-Yeon's father and his men after their first night together. To spare Kwon-Yoo's life, Hwa-Yeon makes her ultimate sacrifice and agrees to her father that she'll be going to royal palace to become concubine.

Meanwhile, Prince Sungwon's tyranny mother (Park Ji-Young) discovers her son's obsession over Hwa-Yeon, but she figures that Hwa-Yeon is better off becoming the concubine to her stepson instead, which happens to be the King (Jung Chan). Hwa-Yeon eventually gives brith to a son in less than a year later, and becomes queen. Then five years later, the King becomes gravely ill over incurable disease and dies in the end. Naturally, the next successor to become the new King is Prince Sungwon but his mother now holds true power. Hwa-Yeon subsequently learns the previous King's death is highly suspicious and discovers that it was the King's stepmother who poisoned the King so she can put Prince Sungwon on the throne. She also knows that in order to survive in the royal palace and protect her own son, she have to change. Then she is surprised to find out that her true love Kwon-Yoo has unexpectedly worked in the royal palace as an eunuch. However, Kwon-Yoo is no longer the same person he used to love her deeply especially after he reveals to her that he get castrated by her father when she is forced to go to the royal palace a few years ago.

Actually there's more story into it, which at times, tends to get bloated and a bit overlong. As a so-called tragic love story between Hwa-Yeon, Kwon-Yoo and Sungwon, there isn't much emphasis in its overall execution especially Kim Min-Jun's portrayal as Kwon-Yoo is more of an afterthought. Still the story which centers its royal intrigue and power struggle is fascinating to watch for.

As for the much-hyped sex moments, there are actually plenty of them and explicit as well, even though most of the scenes actually involved Sungwon copulating with various concubines and less on Jo Yeo-Jeong (which is supposed to be the movie's main target). Mind you, the sex scene, even the one involving Jo Yeo-Jeong leans more into darker territory rather than pleasurable approach. If that's not enough, most of the sex scenes are accompanied with pulse-pounding music score. And of course for all the sex scenes depicted here, it was the memorable final scene involving Sungwon and Jo Yeo-Jeong which ends up with violent outcome.

Jo Yeo-Jeong who had became an overnight sensation, thanks to her willingness to appear nude in THE SERVANT, has again, appeared in a controversially stunning role worth debating for. Her Hwa-Yeon character is certainly engaging to watch for as we witnesses her transform from an innocent-looking woman to a vengeful femme fatale with a dark side. As the meek Prince Sungwon who becomes a powerless king, Kim Dong-Wook is captivating who is particularly disturbing the way he develops sexual and love obsession over Hwa-Yeon. Except for the lackluster performance from Kim Min-Jun as Kwon-Yoo, the rest of the supporting actors are equally credible, especially the memorably sinister role by Park Ji-Young as Sungwon's evil mother.

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