Spiritwalker opens in the aftermath of a car crash. A man (Yoon Kye-sang, The Executioner, The Secret Mission) whose name may or may not be Ian lays on the ground injured while a homeless man (Yong-woo Park, Blood Rain, Nailed) rummages through the wreck looking for anything worth taking. Taken to the hospital, Ian seems to be suffering from amnesia, he has no memory and doesn’t even recognize his own reflection. However, when the police start asking about the gunshot wound in his shoulder he recognizes that it’s time for him to go.
Right away writer/director Yoon Jae-Keun (Heartbeat) tips us off that there’s more than simple memory loss at play in Spiritwalker. When Ian sees his reflection it’s of a different actor and shortly after that something even stranger happens as the room he’s in turns into a cafe. We see the same actor when the camera looks at him, but when he sees his reflection it’s yet another person’s face he sees. Needless to say, this is all very disconcerting to him.
As it turns out, this will happen every twelve hours, at noon and midnight. He has no idea why it’s happening, who these people are or how they’re connected. But as he quickly finds out, somebody wants them all dead, and he stands to be collateral damage.
The tagline for Spiritwalker says, “No Memory. No Allies. Nowhere left To Run” which isn’t entirely true. The homeless guy from the opening scene becomes his helper/comic relief sidekick. And Ian does have some memories which are presented as flashbacks, he just has no idea what any of them means. Spiritwalker’s plot manages to mix bits and pieces of the Jason Bourne franchise with Quantum Leap, Memento, Lifechanger, and any of several Asain action films. Surprisingly this bizarre mix works quite well as the initial body-switching noir elements give way to car chases and fight scenes as we would expect from Korean action films.
While I can see some viewers being impatient for Spiritwalker to get to those action scenes the film’s first act is quite interesting as the pieces slowly start to fall into place. Without giving away too much it revolves around a secret government agency, Jina (Lim Ji-Yeon, The Treacherous, Obsessed) who he is/was involved in a relationship with, and various underworld groups double-crossing each other.
And those action scenes are worth the wait as Spiritwalker throws plenty of car chases and brawls at us. Apart from the last twenty or so minutes, it’s not the kind of non-stop action you get in something like The Raid and its sequel. Nor is it as outrageous as The Villainess, I doubt anything will top that film’s swordfight on motorcycles for sheer WTF factor. But they are well-staged and exciting with fights that look painful. Which is to be expected from a film that shared several of its stunt crew with Squid Game.
On the minus side, at an hour and forty-eight minutes Spiritwalker, like many films pushing the two-hour mark, could have been trimmed back a bit. It never really drags or gets dull, but there are some extraneous scenes that slow the film’s momentum. But that, and for some, the film’s body jumping elements, are certainly worth dealing with. This is an above-average action thriller that should keep fans of Asian action cinema well entertained.
Spiritwalker has been available to subscribers of Well Go USA’s Hi-YAH! streaming service since March 18th. It will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray as well as VOD and Digital platforms on April 12th in both subtitled, which I saw, and dubbed versions. And if you’re looking for something to go with it, FilmTagger can help you out.