Korean arm-wrestling movie ‘Champion’ is a touching family tale that shows off strongman Ma Dong-seok’s comedic side [Review]

Korean arm-wrestling movie ‘Champion’ is a touching family tale that shows off strongman Ma Dong-seok’s comedic side [Review]

The Train to Busan fan favourite channels Stallone but adds his own unique touch of humour to the sport of pro arm-wrestling

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Ma Dong-seok in a still from Champion.
Photo: Warner Bros

In Champion, Train to Busan star Ma Dong-seok gives a solid performance, taking on the role of Mark, an adopted Korean child who grew up in the United States. Now an adult, he works several unfulfilling security jobs after leaving his career as a professional arm wrestler.

When his old friend Jin-ki (Kwon Yul) shows up and asks him to return to the world of competitive arm wrestling, he is persuaded to leave his empty life in the US and travel back to South Korea to compete in the national championship.

Back in his home country, Mark goes looking for his estranged mother; instead he finds two children living with their mother, Soo-jin (Han Ye-ri). As Mark gets to know them better, a situation arises that threatens to compromise his integrity as an athlete.

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Champion promotes itself as a sports film when it is actually a moving family drama with a touch of light-hearted comedy.

At times, the arm wrestling feels almost unnecessary. Instead, the movie is carried by the sweet interactions between the endearingly awkward Mark and his newfound family. The chemistry between him and the children in particular lead to some pretty heart-touching moments. 

The movie suffers from an inconsistent storyline, however. A major twist near the end is never explained, leaving viewers wondering about a character’s motives. Despite these stumbling blocks, the movie manages to deliver an important message about the true meaning of family, which is that you don’t have to share blood to share a bond. With plenty of tear jerking moments, this movie is bound to tug at the heartstrings.

Edited by Ben Young

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This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A winning family drama

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