The Man From Nowhere
The Man From Nowhere
aka 아저씨 aka Ajeossi
Written and directed by Lee Jeong-beom
Korea embarks on a tale of kidnapping and revenge, as a former special ops officer hunts down the men who kidnapped his young neighbor, the only person left he has a connection with. The travel embarks on a quest through the Korean underworld, dealing with organ trafficking, child slave labor, drug dealing, and identity theft. In the grand Korean tradition, things are non-compromising, with a bleak and desperate situation getting increasingly both as time goes on.
The Man From Nowhere is a good film to throw on for everyone disappointed with Taken 2. It takes the similar style of the original Taken (and also Man on Fire) and ramps it up. Cha Tae-sik becomes mixed up not only in the kidnapping, but with a turf war between different gangsters and the police who are trying to take everyone down. While the police often get in the way, they realize quicker than the arrogant gangsters that Cha Tae-sik is someone more dangerous than he appears.
The fights become increasingly more awesome and brutal. At first, all you see is breaking windows and an unconscious goon. Then you begin to see Tae-sik beating up small numbers of people. By the end, there is one of the best knife fights I have ever seen in a movie, and Tae-sik becomes a savage force of nature carving his way through the criminal empire.
Cha Tae-sik begins life looking like a typical reluctant hero character, complete with anime hair, avoiding life and interactions with others except for when So-mi forces herself into his life. Cha Tae-sik avoids as much of the outside world as he can, haunted by the memory of his wife’s murder. Though detached, there is a bit of connection between Tae-sik and So-mi, enough that his emotional wall is beginning to crumble.
So-mi’s mother’s theft of drugs prompts a harsh response from the gang, who kidnap her and her daughter, and threaten Tae-sik (who unknowingly has the drugs in his pawn shop, the mother pawning a camera bag with them sewn inside.) Tae-sik’s easy handling of a large thug causes the brothers Man-seok and Jong-seok to realize they can blackmail Tae-sik to be a mule.
But it is more than a simple mule job, the delivery of drugs turning out to be a framejob by the brothers on their former employer as they take over his business. Tae-sik is just as confused as the bosses as the frameup happens, soon ending up in custody, which he easily escapes. So-mi’s mother is revealed to have been killed and her organs harvested, her body found during the raid.
The gang is using So-mi as an ant, a child worker used by gangs to smuggle merchandise and drugs, or run errands such as emptying stolen credit cards at the atm. When she is old enough, her organs will be harvested. As you might imagine, Tae-sik isn’t going to let that happen without a fight.
Tae-sik begins tracking down the brother’s gang and eliminating them, his only real resistance being the ruthless Ramrowan, whose skills equal Tae-sik’s. Their battles are the highlights of the film, especially during the final confrontation. Ramrowan’s character follows his own code, and doesn’t fall into the generic arrogant thug mentality that everyone else in the entire gang acts like.
The Man From Nowhere highlights important problems with the black market and criminal gangs, the use and exploitation of children. The older woman at the bookstore where the kids are kept, eating her noodles and smoking, not a care for the little ones locked away upstairs. The kids are shown not only acting as mules, but also manufacturing drugs in very unsafe conditions (one kid literally falling unconscious from fumes, the gangsters then preparing to inject her with drugs to get her back on her feet.) The bad guys are all wearing gas masks and virtually ignoring the children as they work, uncaring in the slightest. One important point highlighted by Tae-sik’s disgust is the discarded children wander around the country in life as ants, and then wander around the country in death as their organs are sold across the country.
The Man From Nowhere was the biggest box office hit of 2010 in Korea, and it’s easy to see why. The film is very rewatchable even as you know the outcome, the action pieces spaced out enough they don’t become repetitive. The obligatory Korean slowness is used to build up the next important action and set up just how awful the villains are. The evil they do is often ignored when criminals are used in most films, cinema shying away from showing the exploitation of minors. Heck, it’s even rare a film has bad guys kill a child by accident. Violence and reality is ugly, those that see others as only cattle to use for their own profit are scum. It was important to make the villains so bad, the justice dispensed become easier to take. Tae-sik transforming into a violent force lashing out at everyone does not become disturbing, but is seen as necessary. The Man From Nowhere should become a go to action flick, a required piece on any well-stocked action DVD shelf.
Rated 9/10 (mom, kingpin, victim, monster, aide, no order, card, owner, another victim)
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