Saturday, March 26, 2011

Man From Nowhere, The - 4.5/5

When it has come to really great genre films, it seems that South Korea is cornering the market. From thrillers like "The Chaser" and "Oldboy" to off beat westerns like "The Good The Bad The Weird", its great film after great film making their way overseas to us here in the US. I couldn't be more thankful. That's why when "The Man From Nowhere" finally got its release, I had to see it. Only to NOT be disappointed and have this country continue on their onslaught of great films.

Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin) really just wants to be left alone to run his crappy pawn shop, but this hard-not-to-love little girl (Kim Sae-ron) and her drug addict mother won't leave him be. Alas, he does grow attached to our young girl and when So-mi and her mother are kidnapped by some very serious drug dealers trying to pin a major crime on him, he decides to conjure up a past self he's been trying to stifle for years. Now its a race against time to save a little girl's life and one man is ready to bring a lot of war to a lot of bad people.

"The Man From Nowhere" strikes a balance between dramatic character study and pure relentless badass bad-guy beat downs. Although the film does occasionally seem to go a bit over the top, its this pure adrenaline rush of emotion that we are fed through the subtlety of Tae-sik's character that drives this film into 'kick ass mode'. It's a revenge/thriller wrapped in a bit of spy game that's prime for great cult character legend making.

The kind of execution that is required to sell a story like this is unprecedented. Everything has to be on cue for it to work, and it is. Lee Jeong-beom's directing really sports a slick combination of old school 'character watching' and a modern action style that ably navigates between the two genres not unlike many of the comparisons that this film has held to "Oldboy", but being far less out there with its plot. The realism of the story is held down with this well paced film and its amazing acting that makes many of its more ridiculous moments seem perfectly natural. Won Bin destroys with seething subtlety as our lead (a far reach in character, but just as great as his performance in "Mother") whose transformation throughout is riveting to watch and the supporting cast is just as solid with particular nod to our young girl.

If you are looking for another great thriller with plenty of action sequences to carry one through its two hour run time, then "The Man From Nowhere" is perfect. It's got strong execution for its story (although I would have loved to see a bit more from our police officers as they disappear as the film goes on) and its enough of an emotional rollercoaster to get even the hardest hearts to crack a little by the end. This perhaps leads the charge for favorite film of 2011 at this time, even if it was a 2010 film outside the US, and comes with high recommendations.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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