As director Jeong-beom Lee’s film ‘The Man from Nowhere’ opens up we see some cops on a stakeout at a night club. Don’t worry about those cops too much because they’re not that important. We see the large man that the cops are waiting for at this club about to make a drugs for cash transaction. We’re not going to worry about him all that much either. We see the guy get the drugs and then run off to the employee changing area of this club and if he was paying attention he would’ve noticed that hiding in the clothes rack was the pretty stage dancer he was ogling a few minutes ago. Her… we need to be concerned about. This young woman is Hyo Jeong (Hyo-seo Kim) and she nervously sneaks up behind this cat, tazes him and steals his drugs. There are problems with this. For starters these drugs belong to the mob and it is generally unwise to steal from the mob. Secondly Hyo Jeong is a heroin addict and for all you future thieves out there, don’t use a drug addict as an accomplice when stealing drugs. That would be like asking me to help you steal pecan pies. You’re not getting those back. Third and most disconcerting is that this drug addict is mother to the world’s most adorable child So-Mi (Sae-ron Kim) and her indiscretion is about to get this child killed.
It’s a good thing that So-Mi has befriended Tae-Sik (Bin Won), the dour and depressed owner of the pawn shop in So-Mi’s neighborhood. Admittedly Tae-Sik looks as if he’d be more comfortable on a stage surrounded by swooning teenage girls, but trust me when I tell you this is one pop-idol looking dude that you do not want to mess with. Since So-Mi’s mom is usually strung out or whoring out the child spends a lot of time with the quiet man who feeds her, listens to her constant chatter and gives her a place to sleep on occasion. One day Tae-Sik had a chance to help So-Mi out of a really tight bind and from what little we know about Tae Sik we can see that he is emotionally damaged and we can kind of understand why he chose not to get involved in that situation. He will regret this greatly.
Eventually the bad people whose drugs got stolen found out who stole these drugs and they want their drugs back. These are not good people. Seriously. Director Lee might’ve gone just a bit overboard when creating the brothers Man-Sik (Hee-
won Kim) and Jong-suk (Sung-oh Kim). I mean these guys are drug dealing, raping, murdering, child laboring, child killing organ harvesters. Just a bit overboard. So these psychos steal the mother and child, despite the fact they got their drugs, but they know that Tae-Sik wants the mother and child back so they use this to their advantage to do some more crazy evil stuff. These cats are bad news.
Without getting too much into it let’s just say that Tae Sik won’t be able help mom out too much but young So-Mi could really use a hand right about now. The main enforcer for these lunatics, Ramrowan (Thanayong Wonagtrakul), tries to tell these guys there’s something not right with this guy, but do they listen? No they do not. And they should listen to this guy because he’s nuttier than they are. Assuming this movie takes place in Seoul, the South Korean criminal population is going to be mighty thin by the time this movie is over.
So let me tell you that as far as the narrative goes ‘The Man from Nowhere’ doesn’t offer much in the way of anything that you haven’t seen before. Angry somber super badass of some mysterious origin takes on some insanely evil bad guys to save a ridiculously cute kid. And it’s been done spectacularly before. Well, it’s been done spectacularly again. I can always count on the South Koreans to fill my brutal, violent, action thriller fix. It’s a movie such as this one that lets me know that filmmaking is a craft that I will never understand. You give two filmmakers the same story and one story will be strong while the other similar story will be beyond weak. I have no idea what is required to make a good movie but the good thing for us is that apparently Jeong-beom Lee does have a good idea on what it takes to make a good movie.
I can’t imagine that anyone who enjoys these kinds of movies wouldn’t enjoy this one either. Yes, it’s a little over the top, it has no basis in any kind of reality that I’m aware of… at least I hope it doesn’t… and it does tend to get a little overly sentimental at times but ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is so crisply executed, and so well done and so slick and violent that it is an absolute joy to sit through. This is an action movie first and foremost and actor Bin Won was more than up for the task considering all of the running and fist fighting and jumping out of windows and knife battles and killing he had to do. Tae-Sik didn’t have much to say in this movie but Bin Won is also a proven enough actor that he was able to get across the constant pain his character existed in without the use of words, in addition to his physical skills.
Tae-Sik’s absence of words was more than made up for by young Sae-ron Kim’s plethora of words and this little girl was superb and gave the film its heart. And even though our pair of bad guys were waaaaaay over the top, almost to the point of being cartoonish, they were fun to watch in action, particularly Sung-oh Kim who looked like he was having as much fun being bad as any actor ever had being bad.
This isn’t so much a criticism as it an observance but Bin Won is really young and good looking whereas some of the actors in movies similar to this one, say Jean Reno, Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington aren’t so young and good looking. At least not anymore. Bin Won pulled it off, no doubt, but it doesn’t hurt to have a character who looks like he’s been dragged through the mud somewhat. That certainly isn’t this guy. Look for James Franco in the American remake. And from personal experience I can tell you that being born beautiful isn’t as cake as it seems. A constant struggle.
When movies like this are done right, I could watch ‘em all day long. ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is brutal, violent, over the top action done right.