Review: An athiest MMA fighter becomes an exorcist in ‘Divine Fury’ – San Francisco Chronicle


Ahn Sung-ki and Park Seo-joon in “The Divine Fury.” Photo: WellGo USA

Exorcism movies make up a genre of horror that has its own set of clichés and expectations. That’s what makes “The Divine Fury,” a South Korean entry into this field, such a pleasant and yet often disturbing surprise. How many other exorcism films feature an exorcist who’s a leather-jacketed MMA fighter who doesn’t believe in God?

Yong-hu (Park Seo-joon) is that fighter, but his success in the cage can’t tame his demons — both metaphorical and literal. His cop father was brutally murdered by a man possessed by evil spirits when Yong-hu was young. As his father lay dying in a hospital, the then-devout Yong-hu asked a Catholic priest to pray for his father and save him. When prayer failed, Yong-hu turned violently against the priest and turned his back on the church.

As an adult, his life seems assured. After all, he drives a Maserati and lives in a swanky apartment. But it’s hard to grip that sporty steering wheel or appreciate interior design when bleeding stigmata begin appearing on the palms of your hands, a phenomenon neither common sense nor the local hospital can explain.

He’s finally referred to an older priest and exorcist, Father Ahn (Ahn Sung-ki), who recognizes that what’s happening may not be a curse but a gift. He enlists Yong-hu to help him with his busy schedule of exorcisms, and it turns out Yong-hu is as good at exorcising as knocking heads in the MMA cage. Their relationship doesn’t exactly turn “The Divine Fury” into a buddy movie, but they do develop a respect for each other.

All of this ultimately sets Yong-hu up for a showdown with “the Dark Bishop,” Ji-sin (Woo Do-hwan), the man responsible for the rash of local possessions and the operator of what appears to be the town’s sleekest nightclub.

Director/writer Kim Joo-hwan (“Midnight Runners”) builds tension deliberately and slowly over the 129-minute running time, delivering some undeniably chilling and visually unsettling images along the way. “The Divine Fury” doesn’t revolutionize the exorcism movie, but it does manage to shake it up a bit.

L“The Divine Fury”: Horror. Starring Park Seo-joon, Ahn Sung-ki, Woo Do-hwan. Directed by Kim Joo-hwan. In Korean with English subtitles (Not rated. 129 minutes)




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