Go might look like a board game, but it can be a full-contact sport in Korea. It has a lot to do with the wagering. Sometimes the stakes are even life and death. That suits a mysterious young Go prodigy just fine. He intends to serve up some revenge as cold and hard as Go stones in Lee Khan’s “spin-off” sequel, The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful, which opens this Friday in New York.
Young Gui-su showed an early aptitude for Go and an early thirst for vengeance after Go master Hwang Duk-yong takes advantage of his naïve older sister, driving her to suicide. All alone in the world, Gui-su has the mostly good fortune to fall in with Hur Il-do, a Go teacher and hustler, somewhat like Fast Eddie Felsen in The Color of Money. They start making the rounds, but the thuggish Busan Weed turns out to be a very poor loser. That leads to more grievances for Gui-su to settle later.
After several years of secluded study, the twentysomething Gui-su emerges for his payback. The main event will be Hwang, but Gui-su will warm up on everyone who ever wronged Hur. He will also make a little money in the process with the help of “Mr. Turd,” his bankroller and comic relief. Meanwhile, the mysterious “Loner” stalks Gui-su, hoping to extract his own vengeance for sins Gui-su committed with Hur.
In a way, The Divine Move franchise is like the Tazza series for the game of Go, right down to the supposedly-in-the-same-world-but-really-only-thematically-related sequels. The Wrathful is also like the latest Tazza film in that it is surprisingly violent and hard-bitten, especially for a film revolving around such a cerebral game. Regardless, it is as gripping as a shark bite and nearly as lethal.
As Gui-su, Kwon Sang-woo broods like a champion. He is quiet on the outside, but violent on the inside. At times, you can almost see the steam coming out of his ears. He is backed by quite a colorful supporting cast, especially Heo Sung-tae and Won Hyun-joon, who inhale the scenery as Hur’s old rivals, Busan Weed and the sinister “Shaman.”