A witty pirate film that feels high-budget, fresh and exciting.
This review of the Netflix K-Drama film The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure does not contain spoilers.
Less of a sequel and more of borrowing of a concept, The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure shares the same overarching themes as its predecessor — of treasure hunting, power hungry villains, as well as pirates and bandits joining forces — but feels like it could easily stand alone. Syringed with a more blatant, maximalist sense of humor than the 2014 original, it’s a swift, often endearing watch, one which vitally keeps audiences engaged over the meaty near 130-minute runtime.
At its core, the story revolves around two factions who have united with the shared goal of finding royal treasure. There are the pirates, led by the steadfast, tactical Hae-rang (Han Hyo-joo), and the bandits, who are spearheaded by the brash, eccentric Moo-chi (Kang Ha-neul), who also happens to proclaims himself “Goryeo’s best swordsman.” Together, they’re a mildly dysfunctional group, a point emphasized by their constant in-house quarrels and first act hints of potential betrayal, but a team with undeniable skill. Particularly useful aside from the leaders is the somewhat enigmatic Han Goong (Oh Se-hun), a loyal archer of few words, but who can boast pinpoint accuracy with his arrows.
However, as you’d probably already expect, their aim of finding gold is an unforgiving task. For one, Boo Heung-soo (Kwon Sang-woo), a wannabe king who is equipped with his own task force, in addition to a ship loaded with cannons, also covets the treasure, wishing to use it to leverage himself politically. But just as importantly, the conditions themselves do the protagonists no favors, leaving them needing to navigate through thunder, fire, and everything in between.
It’s gripping stuff, especially when both sides end up butting heads (and swords) on Inazuma island, driven by the polished worldscape director Kim Jung-hoon helps in creating. Viewers will find themselves effortlessly rooting for the protagonists to win out, with their youthful magnetism seamlessly investable, and the villains, although grounded, still made to be lamentable. Of course, there’s also Mak-yi (Lee Kwang-soo), a tension-breaking pseudo-neutral character who ends up stumbling on the bounty for himself as the others try and beat death, but the overriding, grittier action set-pieces stand out as irrefutably exciting.
In that regard, it’s well worth praising the acting skill on show too, as, without it, the fine balance between humorous and earnest may not have been achieved in such a smile-raising manner. Kang Ha-neul is excellent as Moo-chi, the self-confidence and overtly masculine pride in his depiction helping mold a character who is equal parts charmingly charismatic and frustrating — to his comrades at least. Just as impressive is Han Hyo-joo, who channels Son Ye-jin’s starring role in the first Pirates film to be an unshakeable leader capable of guiding anyone towards success. With that being said, a mention should also be afforded to Oh Se-hun, whose strong, slick performance as Han Goong provides a solid backbone for some of the more comedic, silly side characters to shine.
All in all, The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure is a fun, breezy watch. It may lack in some areas, such as developing those who operate on the periphery, but for those looking to pass the time without having to do too much thinking, this movie comes firmly recommended.
What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama film The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure? Comment below.