The Korean action film Spiritwalker shares similar narrative DNA with The Bourne Identity in that a man wakes up with no memories of who he is or even what he’s capable of. However, Kang I-an (played by Yoon Kye-Sang) has the additional problem of inhabiting a new body every 12 hours. On the run from law enforcement and the criminal underworld, I-an must piece together his fragmented memories in order to determine who he should trust.
Sadly, Spiritwalker peaks just after the first body swap. The effect is done well using a technique like the dolly zoom (e.g. the moment in Jaws when Brody realizes a shark is in the water.) Instead of the setting getting stretched into focus, the living room wall behind I-an continues to move back until the room transforms into a restaurant. People and objects begin to populate the space, seemingly appearing out of nowhere much like a video game loading various elements into a newly discovered level. Sadly, the body transfers sequences from here on out aren’t as visually interesting as this first depiction.
The idea that I-an jumps bodies every 12 hours is interesting especially when paired with some sort of countdown indicating he’s about to possess another body. However, even with all the action stunts, Spiritwalker never takes advantage of the idea that I-an would use his body as a weapon or battering ram of sorts.
The body transfer gimmick is fine, but its biggest weakness is when the main actor Yoon Ky-Sang isn’t able to emote as much or as well as the actors whose bodies he’s “inhabiting.” For example, Ky-Sang drops his jaw as he looks at his reflection, yet the reflection that looks back at him (another actor) has a more convincing facial expression.
Kye-Sang gets outshined by everyone else in this cast, especially his homeless friend Haengryeo (Park Ji-hwan). He’s not only the comic relief of the film, but he seems to be the only person who genuinely asks questions that might help I-an figure out who he is and how he might go about looking for answers. Kye-sang’s I-an has little to no chemistry with the love interest Moon Jin-ah played by (Lim Ji-yeon).
Everything in this movie is just passable, the action (fight scenes and car chases) is sparse and tame by today’s standards, which results in a generic action movie. Spiritwalker has an interesting sci-fi premise that the filmmakers never take full advantage of. Hollywood already has plans to remake Spiritwalker, and I hope they spend more time and effort into both the story and action.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511