Tae-sik is not one of those reality TV pawn shop owners. He is all about
keeping a low profile. However, when the neighbor girl is kidnapped by drug and
organ traffickers, he does what needs to be doing. One-upping the Taken premise and then some, Lee
Jeong-beom’s The Man from Nowhere (trailer here) has become a
contemporary touchstone for action cinema connoisseurs, so it logically screens
during Action Korea, the Museum of the Moving Image’s weekend survey of some of
the most explosive Korean films of recent vintage.
does not say much, but young So-mi still likes spending time in his pawnshop.
It is a more stable environment than what passes for a home with her junkie
stripper mother, Hyo-jeong. However, Cha is reluctant to form attachments because
of his tragic backstory. There is also a lot of bone crushing and gunplay in
little pre-planning, Hyo-jeong and her deadbeat lover steal a heroin shipment from
Man-seok and Jong-seok, two Korean gangster brothers looking to make a break
from the Chinese mob. When they abduct the mother and daughter, they also pay a
call on their neighbor. Cha tries to be reasonable, but when they make it clear
they have no intention of returning the now orphaned So-mi, Cha goes into full hunter-killer
what if Nowhere bears some similarities
to prior action films, at least on paper? It is tough to match its fight
sequences. Wildly cinematic but still totally down and dirty, they approach the
standard set in The Raid franchise.
Former heartthrob Won Bin successfully remakes himself into a stone cold hard
nose, whereas young Kim Sae-ron is absolutely heartbreaking as the Dickensian
urchin, So-mi. Their chemistry together it genuinely touching. They might just
get you a little teary eyed, while also getting your blood lust up.
Nowhere has a cast of
dozens, with more name character cops and criminals than viewers really need to
worry about. Yet, Thai actor Thanayong Wongtrakul towers above the rest of the
field as the trafficker brothers’ wildcard henchman, Ramrowan. Wongtrakul
performance is unusually subtle for a villain, portraying him as a full
blooming psychotic who is increasingly disgusted with his employers’ cruelty,
totally keeping viewers off balance at key moments.
It is easy to see why Nowhere was a monster box-office smash in Korea and a cult hit
everywhere else. The action scenes give no quarter and the ending just rips
your guts out. Many subsequent films have been measured against it, so if you
haven’t seen it yet, this is good opportunity to catch up (especially since it
will soon no longer be available for Netflix streaming). Highly recommended, The Man from Nowhere screens tomorrow
(4/5) at MoMI. The blistering Confession of Murder is also perfect for Easter weekend, screening today (4/4) as part
of Action Korea.
Labels: Action films, Kidnapping films, Korean Cinema, MOMI