The Man from Nowhere (2010)

You just don't kidnap the neighbors of an ex-spec ops agent.

When drug-addicted stripper Hyo-Jung (Kim Hyo-Seo) steals heroin from a gang, little does she realize that it starts a chain of gang violence. Eventually, one of the gangs tracks her down and kidnaps her and her young daughter (Kim Sae-Ron). Little does the gang realize that the younger girl has befriended their next door neighbor, Cha Tae-Sik (Won Bin). Soon, they realize it is unwise to be on the wrong end of a personal vendetta of a former Army special ops agent with nothing to lose.

The Man from Nowhere ( 아저씨, Ajeossi) is a 2010 South Korean noir film. It has the distinction of having grossed the most at the South Korean box office that year.

First and foremost, the worst thing you can do is assume The Man from Nowhere to be an action film. Rather, it plays out as a detective drama with some very brutal scenes of violence interspersed. While there is the visually excellent knife fight at the climax, what comes to mind more readily is the scene at the beginning where we see Hyo-jung getting tortured with a hair-dryer.

That said, it goes without saying that The Man from Nowhere is not for the faint of heart, and this is one time I need to warn that this movie is definitely not for children. I think back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because The Man from Nowhere also explores the dark side of humanity, in this case in the seedy underworld of organized crime in Korea. Expect to see brutal scenes of torture and lots of graphic deaths.

Overall, I thought the acting was pretty good. This is the second film I have seen featuring Won Bin, the first being Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (see 5 Vastly Overrated Movies). It was interesting seeing him play a character that was the polar opposite of Taegukgi’s Jin-Seok. Tae-Sik is a man who has seen much more than his share of the world, including the death of his pregnant wife at the hands of an assassin. My first impression of his character was that he belongs in an anime series rather than a live-action movie, especially with the hairstyle he wore that seemed like he was trying to be more a heatthrob for Korean (and American) girls than a serious movie character. However, this did all change after about the 40 minute mark. After a revelation by the police, we know more about Tae-Sik’s past and he becomes a much more complete character.

That brings me to my main problem with the movie: it wasn’t paced quite as well as it should have been. I felt the first half of the movie did drag a little at times. Things did improve later on, but in general what would have helped is if certain scenes (like the staring contest between Tae-Sik and a Vietnamese hitman in a nightclub) were shortened just a little. A relatively minor gripe I have in addition is that the mystery aspect of the movie wasn’t very…mysterious. It seemed a little too easy for the characters to figure out what was going on.

Nonetheless, what I liked most about The Man from Nowhere is that it proved that the noir genre is not dead by any means. Add the fact that the few fight scenes in the movie are very slickly shot, and you have a winner overall.

Score: 3.5/4