North Bend Film Festival 2021 Review: Slate

Year: 2020
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: Ba-reun Jo
Cast: Ji-hye Ahn, Min-ji Lee, Tae-San Park

By Joan Amenn

The North Bend Film Festival kicks off this weekend with a fun and quirky line up of international selections. From South Korea, the film “Slate” (2020) is a fantasy of sword fighting adventure told with off-beat humor. At its heart is a woman who dreams of being in the movies as an action hero.

Yeon-hee (Ji-hiye Ahn) is a struggling actress who has trained for years in martial arts just so she can convincingly portray one of the onscreen heroines she idolizes. Ahn is particularly good at fleshing out the more poignant reasons for Yeon-hee’s aspirations which are connected to her past. However, the script never delves enough into her life to give her motivations real depth.

Depth isn’t what “Slate” is aiming for as a visual display of sword and sorcery. It does deliver in some fun scenes of Yeon-hee showing off her skill with a blade against a band of bad guys who have been terrorizing a village. Director Ba-reun Jo references the classic spaghetti western plot of the stranger who acts as a protector of the defenseless which of course also references Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954).  A soundtrack that includes Spanish guitar and humorous graphics tells us that the director is a fan of Quentin Tarantino, who is also known to be a fan of Asian action films. All of this self-parody and self-owning of action hero tropes can be amusing but after a while becomes a bit grating.

“Slate” ultimately doesn’t know if it wants to be an action film or a satire of one and this causes the film’s pacing to suffer. At only ninety-nine minutes long, it dragged in some scenes to make its runtime seem much longer. There are a lot of great ideas that are thrown on the screen but not all of them seem thought out enough to bring us the rollicking adventure that Yeon-hee deserves to be featured in. At times, the film seems more like a pilot for a television series because the main character is endearing enough that we would like to see some of the holes in the script filled in by viewing her future escapades. “Slate” has an innocence to its story that makes it seem like a fairy tale and children will probably enjoy watching it as part of a family movie night.

North Bend Film Festival continues this weekend through Sunday. For details, go to this link:

https://northbendfest.eventive.org/welcome

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