Starring Won Bin, Thanayong Wongtrakul, Sae-ron Kim, Seong-oh Kim, Hee-won Kim
Fight Choreography by ?
Directed by Lee Jeong-beom
What happens when a personal tragedy–caused by your job–forced you to become a hermit? And what happens when you forge a connection with a child…the kind that tragedy denied you? And what would happen if a group of drug dealers kidnapped said child? That’s the question The Man From Nowhere tries to answer.
Their answer? You cause the city coroner to work lots of overtime.
Won Bin plays Tae-Shik, a quiet pawnshop owner who tries to live a quiet life, a probably could have if not for his next door neighbor’s child, a pitiful child named So-mi (Sae-ron Kim) whose mother is a dancer who is also a heroin addict. So-Mi steals, lies, and does whatever she wants to because no one seems to care about her…except for Tae-Shik, who does so grudgingly. He sees there is a good child in So-Mi, if she could only escape her surroundings, and so he befriends her. Thing get very complicated when So-Mi’s mother steals some experimental heroin from two dangerous dealers, brothers Jong-Seok and Man-Seok. All kinds of shit hits the fan when they have their main hitman Ramrowan (Wongtrakul) kidnap both So-Mi and her mother, setting Tae-Shik on a collision course with the police, the brothers, an honor-bound hitman, and his own past. Before long all of them come together, and So-Mi’s life hangs in the balance…
Wow. Just…wow. This isn’t a story that hasn’t been told before, but as with all good films they tell this story very well. The film kicks out a few surprises, and the plot flies, even during the slower sequences. Even the flashback sequences from Tae-Shik’s past is interesting, and builds to the tragedy that defines who he is now. It’s also refreshing that the police have a part to play, and it isn’t merely as incompetent idiots. They have their part to play, and before long even they get caught in the force of nature that is Tae-Shik, and make no mistake, once the shit hits the fan, he becomes a tornado of violence and repressed rage, and he won’t be denied or stopped, which even interests Ramrowan, who reminds me strongly of Mad Dog from John Woo’s Hard Boiled: the hitman who has a code of honor. He’ll kill cops and other criminals without batting an eye, but prefers to leave “civilians” out of harm’s way.
Won Bin is great as Tae-Shik, and plays him as a tragic hero who runs the gamut of emotions, and you believe his every move and motivation. When Won Bin goes from eccentric pawnshop owner to killing machine you believe it, and his physicality transforms as well, from this slow depressed looking man to a fast-moving faster thinking killing machine with a laser–like focus on getting So-mi back. Wongtrakul also does a great job as Ramrowan, and while he starts like a cookie-cutter lead henchman he imbues his character with a complex set of emotions that brings out the humanity in an otherwise dangerous killer. Seong and Hee-won are also great as the villainous brothers, and I found that I couldn’t wait to see what Tae-Shik would do to both of them once he caught up with them. They played a special kind of douche-bags, ones that truly deserve the ass-kicking you’ll hope they receive.
The fights are fast and well done, especially the bathroom fight between Tae-Shik and Ramrowan, but it’s the final knife fight between Tae-Shik and a group of thugs, which is a well choreographed fight that has a lot of blood and is exciting and suspenseful to watch, and this leads into the final fight between Tae-Shik and Ramrowan, which is just stunning to watch, especially when the camera follows both men’s POV at different points during the knife fight. I’ll just come right out and say it: this is the best knife fighting committed to film. Yes, better than SPL, better than The Hunted (the Tommy Lee Jones film) , and any other knife fight you’ve ever seen on film. It’s just that good.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Best. Knife. Fight. Period.
STUNTWORK: (8) The stunt men really did a good job here, and the reacted so well to the knife cuts they had to act out toward the end of the film as well as the other fight scenes. They made Won Bin look really good.
STAR POWER: (9) Won Bin is a relative newcomer, but his star is shining really bright, and Thanayong Wongtrakul is from Thailand so…Panna Rittikrai, get this guy into a Jeeja Yanin or Tony Jaa film…fast! He was that good, and Sae-Ron Kim need to be in any film requiring a cute little Korean girl who can act.
FINAL GRADE: (9) A heartfelt story how a little girl brings life to a man who lost his–and the lives he’ll end to make sure she keeps hers. A fast ride with a great ending and the best knife fighting ever captured on film.