[culture] “The Man From Nowhere”: this movie could also be called, “Won-Bin-Has-a-New-Fan-Named-Michelle.”

I feel guilty. Instead of working on SMTown fan accounts, I scrubbed around Amazon Prime Instant Videos and watched stuff. I tried doing a bit of Ken Burns, and then stumbled on The Man From Nowhere. So instead of a SHINee review, I offer you The Man From Nowhere review first (please hit me now if you need to to).

The Man From Nowhere is about the drug trafficking and organ harvesting underworld, and about a little girl with a druggie mom and a lonely almost misanthropic male pawnbroker, Cha Tae-Sik (Won Bin), a neighbor, who has a growing relationship with the little girl. Almost inevitably, the little girl and her druggie mom are kidnapped by the bad guys in the drug trafficking and organ harvesting world, and cue the hero! The misanthropic pawnbroker!

What follows is quite a bit of action afterwards. Lots of bloody action. Think Bourne Identity and Kill Bill— lots of knitty-gritty, and not a lot of special effects, though in Asian fashion, a bit exaggerated bloodletting (the fine misty spray!).

I’m embarrassed to say, but I screamed, “OPPA!” quite a bit while watching it; it’s that gripping. Though Cha Tae-Sik is a man of few words, his smouldering presence just screamed all of the emotions he has inside him, emotions that he is properly expressing for the first time; emotions that are dangerously murderous yet we still feel for him– for that, Won Bin is an amazing actor. His portrayal of Cha Tae-Sik is what ultimately moved the movie along: we follow his tracks, we follow his thinking, and we cry and we are happy with him. Also, Won Bin wore a suit for 90% of the movie, even while fighting various gangsters, and still managed to look suave.

I’ve read several reviews of The Man From Nowhere, and a majority seem to malign the acting, one even commenting that it was ‘lazy’. I thought that except for Won Bin and perhaps Kim Sae-ron (So-mi, the little girl), no one was exceptional, they were all passable, but certainly not bad. Gangsters always have an archetype, and with every movie, it is increasingly hard to find a different way to portray them.

Another point of contention seems to be the predictability of the storyline. That, I disagree with slightly. Most of the time, in Korean movies and dramas, the main characters will never have major setbacks, only minor ones, and will come out with the happiest possible ending imaginable. The Man From Nowhere did have two major setbacks, and the ending (not to spoil anything!) can leave you crying and/or feeling happy. These setbacks left me guessing until the end. However, the one thing that bothered me in the storyline was Cha Tae-Sik’s backstory. Total predictable fluff. It either should have been expanded to get it relieved of its ‘fluff’ status or gotten rid of entirely; the film should have left some tantalizing clues and let the audience wonder about the mysteries themselves.

Watch if:

  • you love blood (i.e. you enjoyed watching Kill Bill tremendously).
  • you liked Lee Minho’s shaggy haircut in City Hunter (not joking. Won Bin’s haircut in the beginning of the movie. Lee Minho must have been channeling Won Bin.)
  • you have a weakness for misanthropic men who are mysterious and have a dark past. Who also seem to have a soft spot towards children.
  • you like gangster / vigilante / epic knife fight movies.

Don’t watch if:

  • you can’t stand blood.
  • you can’t stand harsh realities. I, for one, thought the girl was going to be sold into prostitution. Not the case, but still some pretty graphic realities.
  • you have to finish writing three fan accounts of SMTown NYC.
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