April 9, 2011

Review - The Man From Nowhere (2011)

When it comes to exciting new releases in the world of cinema it seems that Korea is right up there with the best of them. Year after year we are treated to wonderful movies that just demand to be seen. From the Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and Memories of Murder kicking the thriller genre in the ass through to movies such as A Tale of Two Sisters which is an incredibly good horror movie, there always seems to be something coming that demands to be seen. I will admit to not having seen more recent releases such as Mother or I Saw the Devil, but I know I will and I fully expect to enjoy them. Even the slightly less impressive movies such as Death Bell and Bloody Reunion, which I did enjoy, still managed to be technically good movies.

Now we see the release of 2010’s The Man from Nowhere, the sophomore effort from Director  Jeong-beom Lee, and what a movie it is! This is a movie that brings familiar themes to the thriller genre, such as drugs, violence and gangs, and gives them a violent twist resulting in a movie that slowly draws us in before exploding across the screen.

Cha Tae-shik is a loner who runs a dingy pawnshop and minds his own business. Well, he would mind his own business if it was not for the interfering of his neighbor’s daughter So-Mi. So-Mi is a lonely young girl who tries to escape from the problems in life, such as her mother’s less than savory company, by visiting Tae-shik. Things come to a head though when it turns out that So-Mi’s mother is involved in drug trafficking for one of the local gangs, gets herself and her daughter kidnapped and inadvertently gets Tae-shik involved.

As the movie progresses little pieces of information are thrown our way as we slowly get the bigger picture about Tae-shik’s past and quite why he is trying to hide away from the world. This is key to the movie’s success as it does start slowly and can seem to be a little confusing with several story strands all running together. Patience however is rewarded as all becomes very clear and the movie builds to an incredible last third. The very end of the movie is slightly disappointing, as it seems to pander to a mainstream audience, although that is a minor problem.

Character driven with wonderful action scenes, yes the knife fight mentioned on the artwork blurb is quite excellent, A Man from Nowhere is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The villains are despicable, the (anti)hero Tae-shik is performed perfectly by Bin Won and Sae Ron-Kim as So-Mi is a joy to watch. Quite honestly aside from the ending I really couldn’t find fault with this movie. If you like taut thrillers with its fair share of claret and bone-crunching violence I suggest you check this out.

Not just another score for Korean cinema, this is a score for cinema in general. Now let’s just wait for the inevitable remake.

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