Whasango or Volcano High is a popular Korean action/comedy/romance released in 2001 directed by Tae-gyun Kim. The plot of the movie is cliched and not entirely original. In fact, a lot of people claim that this movie ripped-off a lot of movies, specifically Dark City and The Matrix. To me however, this movie ripped off the former more than the latter because the ending and the industrial setting is a direct mirror from Dark City while The Matrix... I don't know where they got that idea, probably because of the "chalk time" and leather costumes which are not concepts introduced by The Matrix to begin with, if you know your movies. Anime influences are also prevalent in this movie with the SD (suddenly deformed) facial expressions, the split-screen shots of the different characters reaction, environments regenerating after being decimated in an earlier fight, and so on and so forth. Also, the movie got a mixed reaction in Korea and if it weren't for the DVD release, this movie probably wouldn't be successful at all. It recently was shown in MTV dubbed by rappers and had the storyline and dialogue completely butchered.

The movie begins with our hero Kim Kyeung-su (Huk Jang) which has the ability to control force -- an ability he gained after accidentally falling into a tank full of electric eels when he was a little boy. We get a preview of these powers in the opening scene after he stops a piece of chalk in mid-air (hurled by a teacher that's pissed off at him for sleeping inside the classroom) and sends it back to the teacher blowing him right back at the blackboard. This leads to him being expelled and we later find out that he's been kicked out of 8 other schools as well for various misdemeanors and Volcano High happens to be the last school remaining.

On his way to his class, he crosses paths with another student Song Hak-rim (Kwon Sang-woo) the school's top fighter and mediator because, like Kyeung-su, he possesses supernatural powers and is peeved that there's another guy that can pose a serious challenge to his quest at retrieving the sacred manuscript (it gives its wielder ultimate power and is stored apparently inside a box owned by the principal), something that Kyeung-su doesn't really care about anyway. After class, Kyeung-su gets picked on by Jang Ryang (Kim Su-Ro) and his weightlifting team and gets his ass kicked in that encounter because he can't fight... being that Volcano High is his last and only chance to graduate. That's basically how he approaches fights throughout the entire movie, but you know he's going to cave in sooner or later.

It's not too long after someone attempted to kill the principal and Hak-rim is framed by the vice principal (so he could have the manuscript all to himself) sending him to prison. Hak-rim's incarceration also proved helpful to Jang-Ryang because being the second best fighter, Hak-rim is the only one that's preventing him from taking over, so Jang-Ryang and his posse stages a coup and takes out the rugby, judo and field hockey teams... but gives the fencing team led by the school's top beauty Yoo Chae-yi aka. Icy Jade (Shin Min-a) and her gutsy co-captain the ultra-hot Soh Yo-sun (Kong Hyo-jin) 2 days to surrender. They use this deadline to forge an alliance with the other teams but egos clash and it all falls apart forcing them to recruit Kyeung-su which refuses all efforts by the teams to coax him into joining their club. Jang-Ryang arrives at the deadline but not to destroy the Kendo team but to profess his love for Chae-yi, Kyeung-su is secretly infatuated with Chae-yi so he tries to bail her out but backs off the fight in the last minute and gets his ass kicked yet again. Jang-Ryang ends up being the top dog of Volcano High in the process.

The vice principal is worried of Jang-Ryang's control of Volcano High and enlists the aid of 5 teachers that apart from being expert martial artists, they use force attacks that cleanse the minds of the students. In one scene, one of the teachers blows a student into a wall after he caught him reading a smut magazine in the middle of class. Jang-Ryang got fed up with the teachers after they wrecked the weightlifting teams HQ so he called out the head honcho of the teachers Mr. Ma (Huh Jun-ho) to a duel and ended up being buried up to his shoulders with an axe kick. Because of this, Jang-Ryang and Kim Kyeung-su teams up to take out the teachers culminating in one of the best rain fight scenes in cinema history ever... featuring Dragon Ball Z like action with Kyeung-su and Mr. Ma hurling force waves at each other while flying in the air.

Over-all a movie with tons of humor, eye candy, and it's own share of flaws in the form of plot holes but an otherwise great movie. Highly recommended.

Country: Korea
Release date: 2001
Director: Kim Tae-gyun
Running time: 121 min.

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