Once Upon a Time in High School

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Once Upon a Time in High School
Once Upon a Time in High School movie poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Revised Romanization Maljukgeori janhoksa
McCune–Reischauer maljukgŏri chanhoksa
Directed by Yoo Ha
Produced by Cha Seung-jae
No Jong-yoon
Written by Yoo Ha
Starring Kwon Sang-woo
Han Ga-in
Lee Jung-jin
Music by Kim Joon-seok
Cinematography Choi Hyeon-gi
Edited by Park Gok-ji
Sidus FnH
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Release date(s)
  • January 16, 2004 (2004-01-16)
Running time 116 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean

Once Upon a Time in High School: The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (Korean: 말죽거리 잔혹사) is a 2004 South Korean drama film. The background of the film is set in a high school in South Korea, 1978. The original Korean title literally means "cruel history of Maljuk street" where filming was located in the present neighborhood of Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu district, Seoul.[1][2]


Hyun-soo (Kwon Sang-woo), transfers to another school. He is sent to a bottom-rank class and experiences violence in classroom by a group of gangsters in his class, led by Jong-hoon (Lee Jong-hyuk), who is a stereotypical Korean bully in school. The teachers are also depicted as authoritarian to the students, using discipline as an excuse for brutality, as did most Korean teachers in the 70s. One day on the bus, Hyun-soo falls in love with Eun-joo (played by Han Ga In), and one day when a group of schoolboys start teasing her on the bus, Hyun-soo takes the opportunity to gain her respect, even though it meant starting a fight. After a chase through the neighborhood and being caught in their hiding place (a rat prompted Eun-joo to scream), one of Hyun-soo's friends Kim Woo-sik (Lee Jung-jin) steps in and knocks him out. A relationship triangle was formed between Hyun-soo, Woo-sik, and Eun-joo. One day Hyun-soo while riding his bike noticed Woo-sik and Eun-joo arguing. Taking into account that Hyun-soo was at a disadvantage of winning her heart, he meets her at a rooftop that night and bonds with a romantic song playing on the radio he bought for the occasion, much to Woo-sik's jealousy when he saw them unnoticed when he reached the rooftop. One day Hyun-soo and Woo-sik got in a fight over Eun-joo and their friendship was put to an end, which made Woo-sik the tough person he is even worse, going to the extent of taunting and beating Ham Jye-bok who is called by his nickname Hamburger (Park Hyo-jun), who sells pornography magazines to other students. He leaves the school after losing an intense fight with Jong-hoon, never to be seen again. Hyun-soo is now facing greater problems of his own when he concludes Eun-joo left him and he has been receiving poor grades prompting his father, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an owner of a Tae Kwon Do gym, to harshly scold at him and resort to extreme violence to 'discipline' him and called him a 'surplus man', a derogatory term used to describe a person without a future, and told him to leave his house which Hyun-soo out of anger did and was almost driven to suicide. No longer able to put up with the conduct of Jong-hun and his boys as well as the extreme brutality and violence being put up by the teachers, Hyun-soo starts to train himself in Jeet Kune Do, inspired by his childhood hero Bruce Lee. Hyun-soo challenges Jong-hoon to a fight one day when he is no longer able to put up with his irrational behaviour. Jong-hoon and his friends are grievously injured by Hyun-soo's nunchaku. After the intense fight, although he won, Hyun-soo still didn't feel any victory. Authorities including a general who is called 'puppet soldier' by students were alerted and they started yelling at him even though it was Jong-hoon who was to blame for all the violence and brutality in the school. At this point, badly influenced by all these hardships of being brutalized by his criminally insane father and still being accused rather than honored after all this time and effort he invested to master Jeet Kune Do for the sake of bringing justice to the school and proving his father wrong of his status as a surplus man, Hyun-soo totally lost it and smashed some nearby windows and hurled his nunchucks at them and cursed Korea's entire education system for being so corrupt and fully supporting brutality against students no matter how wrong it is in moral eyes. Hyun-soo is expelled after this incident. Later on, Hyun-soo and his father pays a visit to a hospital to meet the now hospitalized Jong-Hoon and his furious mother. Surprisingly, considering Hyun-soo's father's wicked temper and insanity, he begs her to forgive him calmly and sincerely without even the slightest bit of anger and sees the error of his ways by admitting his method of discipline was wrong. On their way home, Hyun-soo apologizes to his father, and in response he questions him if Bruce Lee ever went to college and silently walked home without a word. Sometime later, Hyun-soo is now attending a GED institute with teachers who don't support brutality against students, and met Hamburger in the hallways and discussed about their past. One night on the bus, he meets Eun-joo again, but they say their goodbyes. The film ends with Hamburger and Hyun-soo outside of a movie theater showing Jackie Chan's 1978 movie Drunken Master, rough-housing as they argue about Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.

Awards and Nominations[edit]

2004 Blue Dragon Film Awards[3]

  • Best Art Direction
  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Director - Yoo Ha
  • Nomination - Best Screenplay - Yoo Ha
  • Nomination - Best Cinematography
  • Nomination - Best New Actress - Han Ga-in

2004 Korean Film Awards

  • Nomination - Best Film
  • Nomination - Best Director - Yoo Ha
  • Nomination - Best Screenplay - Yoo Ha
  • Nomination - Best New Actress - Han Ga-in


External links[edit]