Iljimae


Reviewed by: sukting

December 11, 2008

Rating: two-point-five

How long
20 episodes

Foreword
Set during the Joseon Dynasty, it is about a gangster who becomes Robin Hood at night. How does he cope with this double life? He has two confidantes – one rich and one poor. Who will he choose in the end?

Story/Introduction on characters
1. Lee Joon Ki as Iljimae / Ryung / Lee Geom
Geom's family was killed when he was young but he has no recollection of it as he lost his memory. From the day he starts having nightmares, he starts to recall the whole incident and decides to find out his real identity. But the findings prove to be upsetting and he discovers that bringing the case to court will not help with corrupted officials present.

Thus, Ryung acts as a useless gangster in the marketplace by day but at night he is a chivalrous robber who robs corrupt government officials to give to the poor. Despite getting badly beaten at times, he conceals his emotions. He begs the monk to teach him the martial arts. After each robbery, he leaves behind a wooden branch from a plum tree at the site of the robbery to take responsibility for the robbery. He enjoys putting honey on their faces when they are asleep, indicating that he is ready to take their lives any time.

The poor citizens only know him as Iljimae and worships him as a hero. He is masked and is nearly caught by Shi Hoo one day. He befriends Bong Soon and falls in love with her. She often tries to help him escape from Shi Hoo. But he prefers to be a gangster to cover up his real identity and causes her to feel disgusted about him. He will then meet her at night as her hero.

Joon Ki does well in this drama. But somehow, the cheery nature is no different from how he acted in 'My Girl'. He is better as the thief at night – he has a different look under his metal mask – chivalrous, bold and also agile in action.

2. Lee Young Ah as Bong Soon
Bong Soon is a hilarious girl with good martial art skills and lives as a swindler. She is separated from Ryung since young but they don't recognise each other when they grow up. In fact, she swindles his money twice and he vows to seek his revenge. But somehow, she starts liking him after knowing that he helps the poor. Geom buys a handkerchief for Bong Soon but she thinks that it is for her. How upset she is to find out the truth. She only loves Ryung and sacrifices her whole life for him.

Lee Young Ah is loud and adorable. You will laugh at the scenes when Geom gets tricked by her (he is once trapped in the toilet). Both are really a funny couple.

3. Han Hyo Joo as Eun Chae
Eun Chae is a government official's daughter and is good in nature and usually helps miserable people. She is not afraid of defying her own parents. She meets Iljimae once by chance, and their sweet love story begins. She wants to feel his face but he only allows that after blindfolding her to exchange a kiss with her.

However, her love puts Iljimae in a dangerous situation because Shi Hoo also loves her. To save Iljimae, she doesn't hesitate to shoot Shi Hoo – with the archery skills he teaches her. Han Hyo Joo doesn't make much impact in this drama. Her role is too suppressed. I think she acts better with Shi Hoo than with Joon Ki.

4. Park Shi Hoo as Shi Hoo / Ja Dol
Shi Hoo is an Imperial Guard. He is scholar-like but is also talented in martial arts. He is adopted by Bong Soon's father and is always looked down by her brother. But Bong Soon still treats her like a kin and he falls for her. Initially, he often goes against her brother to help Geom out as her brother is a good-for-nothing. Worrying that Bong Soon will be bullied as she often goes out alone helping the poor, he teaches her archery to protect herself.

But after Geom commits theft cases, he is instructed to seek Iljimae out. He gets very annoyed whenever he slips away despite wounding him. The last straw will be him running after Iljimae on the rooftop but Bong Soon attempts to shoot him to delay him. Thus he vows to get Iljimae at all costs. This not only will prove his ability and to kill Bong Soon's thoughts of loving him.

What a change of him from 'Which Star Are You From?' ! – he becomes so unfriendly here. His soft nature is only revealed to Bong Soon. All will enjoy the cat and rat races when he keeps failing to get Iljimae.

5. Lee Moon Shik as Swe Dol (Ryung's adopted father)
A very poor man who adopts Yong. But his wife often thinks that Ryung brings them ill-luck to ill-treat him. Thus he is sandwiched between them.

6. Kim Sung Ryung as Dani (Shi Hoo's mother)
She struggles to survive in order to bring up Shi Hoo. There is a purpose for it – he and Geom are natural brothers. She manages to stop them fighting in a ring to reveal the truth.

7. Lee Won Jong as Byun Sik (Eun Chae's father)
His family is implicated because of Ryung's family. He gets killed when helping his children to escape.

8. Ahn Kil Kang as Kong He / monk (Bong Soon's adopted father)
He is a monk but is also a killer in the past to kill Ryung's family. He becomes a monk to repent for his past but soon his past catches up with him when Sa Cheon looks for him. Learning about Ryung's parentage, he initially forbids them to be together. But he still teaches him martial arts.

9. Moon Ji Yoon as Dae Shi (Yong's friend)
He is a hooligan lke him, getting protection money from the villagers.

10. Kim Chang Wan as the king
It is common that every drama has a blur emperor. No exception for this one. He will always jump when the officials get robbed. He commands for Iljimae's arrest but he himself also gets robbed in the end.

11. Kim Roe Ha as Sa Cheon (chief assassin)
He knows that the siblings have escaped and never stops hunting them down all these years. Thus he executes Yeon once he gets her.

12. Kim Moo Yul as Shi Wan (Eun Chae's brother)
He is Ryung's good friend. He helps him to escape and dies while protecting him and Eun Chae.

13. Lee Il Hwa as Lady Han (Geom's mother)
She is Yeon's and Geom's mother. Knowing that her family is in trouble, she has no fear to sacrifice herself.

14. Son Tae Young as Lee Yeon (Geom's older sister)
She is locked in the jail cell together with Geom. She only learns of his identity before she is killed. Not willing to implicate him, she chooses not to acknowledge him. Geom only learns of it before her death and has to see her dying in front of his own eyes.

15. Jo Min Ki as Lee Won Ho (Geom's biological father)
He is a righteous official who offends the evil officials. Thus his whole family is wiped out in one night.

Interesting facts

The comic is by Ko Woo Yung. The two actors took up martial arts classes to make their fighting more convincing. Many joked that Jun Ki had put his taekwondo skills to good use.

This drama garnered good ratings to go at least 20 points each night and up to 30 points as its finale in Korea. There were other versions of the same name. Another TV version and movie version were out too. The TVB version had Wan Siu Lun as the lead while a movie version had Wong Chau Sang. I wondered if the comic drawing has the story in mind to translate it?

Conclusion

To tell you frankly, I have no idea why the Koreans raved about this drama. I stopped watching after 2 episodes and resorted to reading the synopsis through magazines instead. I saw many spoiler clips on television and could guess the story easily. Thus there is really no need for me to continue watching such a repetitive plot which makes up 20 hours.

Maybe the Koreans are not exposed to many martial arts dramas and are easily satisfied. To me, the story is too out-dated. A man seeking revenge and falls out with his brother because they love the same woman. And they will only know about their parentage when it comes to the very end to produce the dramatic effect. Then both will be put into a dilemma – to capture or not to capture? To love or not to love?

We have seen this plot in countless Hong Kong, Taiwanese and China dramas. Korean dramas normally do better in present setting dramas. I see a similar storyline in 'Hong Gil Dong' produced in the same year. Can't they be more original?

I normally stay away from Korean ancient dramas (even Ha Ji Won's 'Hwang Jin Yi' as it was too melodramatic) as they don't go well with me. So far, 'Jewel in the Palace' was the only drama I had watched till the end but I found many flaws as Jae Geum was not hurt after so many assassinated attempts. It also did not stick to the facts – how ridiculuous to have a Han official demanding to taste Manchu feast!

Being a wuxia fanatic, I only consider the fighting scenes average. (Maybe I had too high standards and was completely pampered by blockbusters or good swordfighting dramas in the past.) But Joon Ki and Shi Hoo have tried their best in the scenes. The two actresses are also pretty and look traditional in their hanooks to match their looks well.

How is the ending like? I shall not reveal it and let all to find out as I have been a spoiler for many dramas lately. But it is definitely an easy guess.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : *** (Scale of 5)

On story : **1/2 (Scale of 5)


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Iljimae

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