Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Man from Nowhere

I've generally had a good experiences with South Korean films, and The Man from Nowhere is no exception. While there is a tendency towards the violent end of the spectrum in South Korean cinema, there is also focus on the human element of story telling.

In The Man from Nowhere the core of the story is the relationship between a lonely little girl and a reclusive young pawnbroker living next door. So-mi is bullied at school and ignored by her stripper, drug addict solo mother. She is much cuter than but just as stubborn as Marcus in About a Boy. As in that film the relationship between the lonely child and the reluctant man ends up involving him in the complications of the mother's life. And those complications involve a drug deal gone wrong and two warring gangs, with the police closing in.

In many violent thrillers the baddies mostly exist to charge towards the protagonist and die in a flailing of arms and legs and fountains of blood. Lee Jeong-beom (who wrote and directed The Man from Nowhere) has made the effort to give his baddies personalities, albeit relatively thin ones; with varying attitudes to our hero ranging from fear to contempt to admiration. But of course it is the audience attitude to the hero that matters. It is difficult to get the audience on side when the hero is a silent loner, hence the crucial importance of So-mi.

Overall this is a film with Quentin Tarantino's flair for violence and Steven Spielberg flair for pathos, with a sprinkling of humour. If you want to see a crime thriller done well and packing an emotional punch this should be on your must-see list. That said there is a lot of violence and the crimes go beyond drug dealing and kidnapping.

Ian's rating 5/5

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