Nowheresville, Population: This Guy.
Located a stone’s throw from Unstoppable Ass-Kickery-Ville
If you saw Ip Man 2 on BluRay recently, you caught a trailer for The Man From Nowhere. Intrigued by the trailer, I went out and picked up a copy, and here’s what I found. If you enjoy Korean cinema, revenge thrillers, and epic knife fights, this movie is for you.
Directed by Lee Jeong-Beom (Cruel Winter Blues) and starring Won Bin (Mother) and Kim Sae-Ron (A Brand New Life) The Man From Nowhere is a revenge thriller in the vein of Taken and Man On Fire. Like any movie from the revenge thriller sub-genre, The Man From Nowhere is filled with familiar tropes and staples, but it’s the presentation and characterization that helps it stand out from the pack.
The basic premise follows Cha Tae-Shik (played with stoic gravitas by Won Bin) and Jeong So-Mi (admirably played by 11 year old actress Kim Sae-Ron) as kindred spirits caught in the violent underground world of the Korean organ smuggling trade. The story opens with glimpses into the nature of Tae-Shik and So-Mi’s unconventional friendship. They both lead solitary lives, one as a pawnshop owner with a mysterious past and the other as an outcast with a broken home life. Tae-Shik interacts with so few that the neighborhood has nicknamed him the Pawnshop Ghost, and due to So-Mi’s absentee/stripper/drug addict mother she is a loner who just doesn’t fit in with the other kids. Tae-Shik and So-Mi share meals together and when things get rough at So-Mi’s apartment, he lets her sleep at his (in a kind and totally non-creepy way). Through all this, an unlikely friendship is formed and it’s given enough screen time to be believable and not seem forced. These scenes are also where the leads really get a chance to shine. Won Bin owns the screen saying little but conveying much through his eyes and gestures, and Kim Sae-Ron pulls off some tear jerking scenes that go straight for your heart strings. Through a series of unfortunate events, So-Mi is kidnapped by gangsters and Tae-Shik is seemingly the only one that can help her. The film follows a fairly predictable path from there, but includes some stand-out action sequences and great pacing.
It’s a slow reveal as to why and how Tae-Shik ended up such a loner and is so ably qualified to go up against a crime ring. In films like Taken and Leon/The Professional, it’s obvious from the start why the resident badass is so badass. The kidnapping or event that requires avenging also occurs relatively early in most of these films so you can jump to the action as fast as possible. I have to say I really enjoyed the slower build-up in The Man From Nowhere. The characters are given plenty of room to breathe and the relationships, time to build. The movie is also pretty bleak (like a lot of Korean Cinema) and tragedy saturates the celluloid, but this all makes the heroic moments that much more impactful and cathartic.
It slices! It dices… Every major artery you possess.
When we do get to the action, it’s pretty much a non-stop ride on a bullet train of ass-kicking. The action is shot well and without style overriding the choreography. You get to see every punch, kick, gunshot and stab. And holy crap is there stabbing-a-plenty! The Man From Nowhere has shot straight to the top of the list for some of my favorite knife fights ever filmed (in good company with The Hunted and Eastern Promises). It’s well choreographed, unflinchingly filmed, and has that all-too- important and ever-elusive quality of being visceral. In other words, s**t is hardcore. The villains have a lot to do with this. They are not portrayed as multi-dimensional or layered, but are so utterly despicable that when you finally see them getting their just deserts, it’s that much sweeter.
I can’t speak for how the BluRay compares to its theatrical release, as I did not see it on the big screen. The BluRay, however, is a superb transfer with regards to maintaining black levels throughout most of this dark picture. The 1080p AVC encode handles the movie’s icy blues and inky blacks with style, while providing sharp detail throughout the run time. Audio is handled capably with the surround channels getting serious use during the action sequences. The club scene will make your sub shake and the dialogue is crisp and clear. Not quite reference level stuff, but the video and audio quality delivers an engaging and immersive experience. The special features are pretty slim, though. There are a couple of trailers, a making-of, and a clip reel showcasing key scenes. Not really groundbreaking stuff, but still a good disc overall.
The Man From Nowhere, thanks to its direction, superb leads, and some spectacular knife fighting, ends up being more than the sum of its parts. If you’re in the mood for a revenge thriller or are curious about Korean cinema, give The Man From Nowhere a look.
Recommendati0n: It’s 0n. Go grab it now. It’ll make a nice addition to your collection.
The More You Know: I got my copy from Best Buy for 16 bucks. Not a bad price for a BluRay. I’ve seen it for as low as $13 on Amazon, but I still enjoy shopping for my flix on the racks.