Well Go USA
Cast: Bin Won, Sae-ron Kim, Hyo-seo Kim
Extras: Featuettes, Trailers
South Korea has been invading American theaters and I love it. Many of us were introduced to the culture in 2003 with the outstanding 'Oldboy'. After Park Chan-wook chewed us up and spit us out, Kang Je-gyu demanded our attention with 'Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War'. Then came Jo Beom-jin's 'Aachi and Ssipak', Kim Ji-woon's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Weird' and Bong Joon-ho's 'Mother'. They are all diverse in execution, but maintain a degree of intensity that is hard to find in American films. The first of two South Korean films that I saw at Fantastic Fest was 'The Man from Nowhere'. It is directed by Lee Jeong-Beom, who may seem like a man from nowhere for those who haven't seen his debut crime drama, 'Cruel Winter Blues'. It seems with his latest film, Jeon-beom has decided that action speaks louder than words as 'The Man from Nowhere' incorporates some violent, fist clenching action into a character driven movie.
Cha Tae-Sik (Bin Won) is a quiet man. Living in a humble apartment within the pawn shop he runs, it seems his goal is to avoid any type of contact or conversation with the people who pass in front of his store. The exception to his rule of seclusion is Yeong So-Mi (Sae-Ron Kim), who is as popular as yesterday's newspaper. In an effort to avoid her drug addicted mother, Yeong has found a friend in Cha and sees that he is more than a glorified hermit. The two share a relationship that is similar to an uncle and his niece. They eat together and Yeong even manages to paint Cha's nails. It is a place where both parties feel comfortable given the different roads that have led them there. Eventually, Yeong's mother goes too far with her drug habit. She tries to rob a dealer and compromises her location, her life, and the lives of those around her. Yeong ends up getting kidnapped and Cha quickly takes notice. This man from nowhere shows that he has plenty of backstory and sets out to find his young friend. Those who get in his way find out that it is indeed the quiet ones that you need to watch out for.
'The Man from Nowhere' had me hooked early. The movie has a dark, humorous side that is peppered throughout the runtime and the action scenes sneak up in a hurry. With all that is going on, Lee Jeong-Beom never lets go of the heart of the film – the relationship between Cha and Yeong. Cha seems to have taken to Yeong much like Leon to Mathilda in 'The Professional'. He doesn't want a relationship, but seems to welcome it once it arrives. While it doesn't have the romantic undertones, Yeong sees that Cha is hurt and accepts him regardless. As his backstory unfolds, we see that his need for Yeong's influence is greater than one would think. Both characters share shattered lives and have somehow found each other. It sets the film up very well for the justified ultraviolence that Cha inflicts on those who are between him and his friend.
Many may know Well Go USA for their great 'IP Man' release last year. If you were impressed with the quality of that title, prepare to be wowed again. 'The Man From Nowhere' is presented with a beautiful 1080p AVC encoded image in 2.35:1. There is great detail throughout the film and the dark tone of the movie is complimented by a blue hue throughout the film. This, coupled with the soft film-like presentation, gives this hard hitting title even more character. Colors are well defined and flesh tones are accurate. The white subtitles are easy to read throughout the feature and don't blend in with the action.
As with most dubbed tracks, do yourself a favor and skip the English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. You can get all of the same action along with voices that don't seem detached from the action by selecting Korean DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. With this track, dialogue levels are well balanced in the front field and somehow manage to be heard despite the aggressive surround field. Heavy bass, gunfire, and an amazing score are just a few of the ways speakers will be tested. There is great cross-channel use and ambiance is created anytime the film will allow. The disc also includes both English and Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks.
The trailers for for 'IP Man 2', 'Legend of The Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen', 'Yoga', and '9th Company' play before getting to the title screen of the feature film. 'Making Of' (17:23) is a look at how movie magic is made. Watching these standard definition scenes before post production really shows how much is added to a film to provide atmosphere and character. Some of the action scenes are highlighted as well as some direction from fight choreographers. Seeing Won Bin hesitate to hit an extra (despite being instructed to) is pretty humorous considering how much of a bad ass his character is. 'Highlights' (5:11) is somewhat pointless. It takes some of the film's more memorable scenes and brings them together in a standard definition feature. It seems kind of counterproductive, since none of the high definition benefits are showcased. The disc is rounded out by the film's teaser and theatrical trailers.
'The Man from Nowhere' needs to be on your radar. Writer/Director Lee Jeong-Beom doesn't skimp on the story or the action and Won Bin is a stud in this flick. It is a well balanced film that will bring a smile to your face a few times with its dark humor. While some of the elements of the film may seem familiar, they are presented in an entertaining and forgiving way. Well Go USA has delivered the goods with this underrated title with top notch audio and video presentations. There may not be a whole lot in the extras department, but this is certainly forgivable. It is recommended viewing and is perfect as a 'blind buy' title.