-The Unexpected Bonds of Unconditional Friendship
On the surface, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is an South Korean mystery thriller centered around a mysterious pawn shop owner well-trained in the martial arts. However, this eye-dazzling action-packed flick is actually a work of poetry celebrating the virtues of unexpected yet unbreakable bonds.
This film could rightfully be compared to Pierre Morel’s ‘Taken’ starring Liam Neeson. However, ‘Taken’ circles around a father attempting to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter, only to find her kidnapped by human traffickers. In contrast, ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is a story about two people who are nothing more than strangers.
Cha Tae-sik is a unlikable pawnshop owner,who operates from his apartment. He is scorned by his neighbors and is assumed to be a child molester. Despite such an outlandish rumor, Cha Tae-sik always seems to have one little girl following him around. This young child is So-mi. Her mother, Hyo-Jeong, is a heroin addict who unwisely steals drugs from an organized crime syndicate. Hyo-Jeong’s drug habits self-destructively lands her daughter in hot water with a crime syndicate, prompting Cha Tae-sik to embark on a life-threatening, dangerous mission to save his only ‘friend’ during which, in the process, his dark past comes to light.
Kim Sae-ron gave a heartwarming, emotional performance as So-mi. It is no wonder she is currently the most demanded teenage actress in South Korea. So-mi is a neglected child, verbally abused by a mother who craves a heroin-induced intoxication over the love of her only daughter. Detaching from her mother, So-mi turns to her neighbor, Cha Tae-sik, and invests all of her affection towards him. When So-mi infers Cha Tae-sik’s seemingly apathetic attitude towards her, she laments:
“Mister? I embarrass you too, right? That’s why you ignored me? It’s okay. My teacher and all the kids do that too. Mom said that if I get lost, I should forget our address and phone number. She’s gets drunk and says we should die. Even though that pig called me a bum…you’re meaner. But I don’t hate you. Because if i did, I won’t have anyone I like. Thinking about it hurts me here. So I won’t hate you”
It baffles me on how the most unloved tend to be the most loving. So-mi understanding of unconditional love is remarkably insightful. Even if she remains an social pariah, she unabashedly retains her love for Cha Tae-sik because that is her source of sustenance and hope. Her love for Cha Tae-sik is the net preventing her from falling into the abyss of nihilistic despair.
Bin-Won’s interpretation of Cha Tae-sik’s character was quite intuitive. He successfully captured the aura of mystery surrounding Cha Tae-sik. Dashing, with an edgy streak, our protagonist could trigger the interest of any viewer. He utilizes his astute martial arts skills to dazzle the audience while fighting off crime bosses. As the movie processes, his secret past is revealed, including a tragic event that changed his life forever.
The other cast members also played their roles well, including Kim Hyo-seo as Hyo-Jeong, Kim Tae-Hoon as the detective, and Thangagong Wanktrakul as Rowan. Kim Hee-won was exceptionally menacing as Man-Seok, from the crime syndicate.
Lee Jeong-beom’s sense of direction is nothing short of sensational. The background setting was so authentic, you felt as if you were there. The action scenes were astutely choreographed. The soundtrack was so unique and eerie, it would implant itself in your head for at least a week.
The Man from Nowhere is a beautifully-crafted movie that attests to the greatness of Korean cinema. Highly recommended!