Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man From Nowhere | 아저씨 [ Movie Review ] ★★★★

The Pitch

The Man from Nowhere was the Top Korean Film of the 2010 Korean Box Office. That information alone should perk some interest and curiosity for this movie. It's also headlined by Won Bin, one of the top artist in Korea with his huge fans base. But it's unlikely that the fans could push a film into the top spot. There must be something good in the movie that garnered so many viewings from non fans or business from repeated viewings.

The Plot

Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin) leads a quiet life a pawnbroker in a neighborhood pawn shop. A little girl So-Mi (Kim Sae-ron) kept pestering him and became his companion (irregardless whether he wants it or not). Troubles started knocking on their doors when thugs wanted to recover some drugs that So-Mi's mom had stolen and she kept it in a camera bag that she had pawned to Tae-sik.

What they didn't realized was that Tae-sik is not your ordinary pawnbroker and he is not a man to trifle with.

After a tense standoff, the thugs managed to leave with the drugs and So-Mi. In order to rescue them, he agreed to run an errand for them and ended up getting double crossed by the thugs. The police arrived at the exchange location and apprehended him. They were surprised to discover So-Mi's mom dead body in the trunk of his car. To make matters worse, the internal organs are missing and that would mean that these thugs are not simply trafficking drugs.

Time is ticking by and Tae-sik is forced to go all out to rescue little So-Mi before she suffers the same fate as her mom. It's not only the bad guys, Tae-sik had to content with the police force who are investigating this case.

The Perspective

The introduction arc of The Man from Nowhere felt like it's a remake of Léon (The Professional). It's awfully similar to how the young girl bonded with the quiet neighbor and the parents who are involved with drugs. I was half expecting the little girl asking for her neighbor to coach her in the ways of assassins. But then again, it's not a remake of Léon. Almost half way through, it became a movie about drug / human organs trafficking and one man's mission to rescue his young friend. He did it in a very brutally effective way and the movie took a turn for Liam Neeson's Taken.

But nevertheless, the movie has a solid run with it's rendition of those familiar elements and could stand on it's own without being label as a knockoff. It's largely based on the performance and how the story was told.

First of all, there are pretty memorable villains in this movie. The two leaders are wildly wicked and bestially cruel. Their right hand man is a cool hitman with a strong sense of ethics. The things they do to the kids are so repulsive that it makes their gory comeuppance a joy to sit through. They might be  stereotypical but they were effective here in defining the hero's struggle.

The story also had a great pace and flow. Keeping various turn of events coming a brisk pace that it will keep one on the edge of the chair. From the revelation of Tae-sik's background to the true nature of the thugs' trafficking, it just hooks you and never let go till the end credits.

Then there's the little girl's performance as So-Mi. Kim Sae-ron exude a sense of adorableness without being too annoying. There a sense of worldliness and innocence to her that makes her her a great supporting act. Given her young age, Kim Sae-ron is definitely someone to watch out for in the future. 

Last but not least, this is a Won Bin movie and he got screen charisma in spades. From the hard hitting unflinching man on a mission to one dealing with lost cause, it's easy to see why he had such a huge fan base.

The Koreans are also know for their hard hitting take on vengeance movies and they are constantly pushing edge of morality. With the right cast, performance and direction, the movie will grip hold of the audience long after the credits are over. The Man from Nowhere is one of those movies that balance violence and emotion well. One of the finest Korean movies in recent years and definitely worthy of it's placing in the 2010 Korean Box Office.

Beyond the Movie

The Korean title for this movie Ajussi means Uncle.

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