An atheist MMA fighter develops stigmata and ends up punching demons for Jesus? How can you not love that premise? Well, I’ll tell you how: You can be a mainstream critic.
I don’t have any review sites I visit regularly any more: IMDB became fairly worthless years ago, and Metacritic (which I probably hit the most these days) has a system that tends to put everything into a narrow band of “meh”. After the Captain Marvel fiasco, it was apparent that Rotten Tomatoes is essentially owned by Disney and SJWs—and, honestly, long before that, they seemed to be rating nearly every big Hollywood release as good or great or The Best Movie Ever.
But RT shall be forever remembered as the home of the “Jesus split”: Any movie featuring the merest mention of Jesus was going to get at least a 30-point hit from the critics. I noticed that The Divine Fury had a whopping 89/38 split, and I was sold. I mean, even more sold, because again: atheist MMA fighter who punches demons.
Of course, that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Yong-hoo is a boy who lives with (and adores) his policeman father. One day at church, the priest mentions prayer and he asks his dad if he didn’t love his mom, who died in childbirth. The father is startled and asked why, and the boy tells him, well, if he prayed enough, she’d have lived. Now, the father replies that he thinks the mother just prayed harder for Yong-hoo’s well-being, which is sort of a slippery slope theologically speaking, but perhaps understandable under the circumstances.
Inevitably, the father ends up being injured by a street-racing villain (who also happens to be possessed) and Yong-hoo prays fervently with the priest to keep his dad alive. But, alas, the father dies anyway and Yong-hoo renounces God in a quite dramatic fashion. And ever more “sees red” whenever he comes into contact with The Cross.
I mean, his eyes glow red. I don’t know if it was meant literally but it’s shown literally. And Yong-hoo hears voices. Like, Friday the 13th-style voices.
So, not really an atheist, though hardly the first person to claim the mantle of “atheist” when they just hate God.
Anyway, Yong-hoo ends up with stigmata. They don’t hurt or get infected. They just won’t heal, and they do tend to, em, ebb and flow, as it were, sometimes bleeding a lot more than others. He ends up going to a Korean astrologer—his driver gives this amusing spiel, and we are reminded that Korea is simultaneously very Christian and very pagan (see The Wailing)—and the astrologer tells him to go to this church that night, where a man would help him.
And when he gets there, what should be going on in that church but a good, old-fashioned exorcism! And it’s going badly. Lo and behold, Yong-hoo discovers, in the natural course of events, that his stigmata are instant exorcism-ers. He also discovers that a cross and blessings from the old Father (Sung Ki-Ahn) stop the voices in his head and allow him to get some sleep without all those demon-infested nightmares.
So, there’s your movie: Action exorcisms plus story arc as our hero learns not to blame or hate God for not giving him what we wanted.
Much like Roar (which we saw the same day), it’s not great but it’s good, solid fun. It doesn’t hate you, moviegoer, and for all the Christian references—I mean, we’re performing exorcisms, here—it isn’t preachy. Obviously, the critics have to hate it because it’s full of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s and holy water and rosary beads and all that, and it generally validates the notion that there is Good and Evil and Christian clergy are on the side of Good, while drug-addled materialistic blood-sacrificing cultists are on the side of Evil. This passes for controversial among the smart class, I guess.
But The Boy liked it. And The Flower, who is not used to double-features, also liked it a great deal (more than Roar). Seo-Joon Park (who had a small role in Be With You) is a likable hero, even when he’s being tempted by demons to violence. Do-Hwan Woo is appropriately evil as the…well, I’m not sure what he was, exactly. I think he was human but he was so vested with demonic powers, he might as well have been human. Seung-Joon Lee has a nice role as the father.
Worth a watch, if you’re in the mood and not a Christophobe.