The Man from Nowhere

Reviewed by: sukting

June 13, 2011

Rating: three-point-five

How long
2 hours

The Man from Nowhere helps Won Bin to garner many best actor awards. It was also Korea's highest grossing film in 2010. Do you wish to know why?

Story/Introduction on characters

Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin) opens a a pawn shop in a small neighborhood and is a quiet person. His only talks to a little girl, So-mee(Kim Sae-ron) , who lives nearby. She tries stealing milk from him but to no avail. She shows him her colourful finger nails to arouse his curiosity. She gives him things to pawn but he gives her very little money.

The neighbours have thought of him having a dark past as he is so mysterious with his hair with a long fringe, covering his eyes. So-mee isn't afraid of him and often talks to him. He treats her to a meal and kicks her bowl of rice under the table where So-mee hides when her mother, Hyo-jeong (Kim Hyo-seo) demands him to hand her over. Tae-sik's face changes when So-mee touches his flowers and tells her not to touch anything else.

Hyo-jeong is a a heroin addict and a dancer at a nightclub. She smuggles drugs from a drug trafficking organization. She entrusts Tae-sik with the product inside a camera without his knowledge, pretending to pawn it. The organization vows to hunt her down.

She wants half the money of the heroin to be sold but is beaten by her partner Chi-gon (Kim Tae Hoon) instead. She injects herself with drugs by getting So-mee to go out so that she will not watch her. So-mee then goes to look for Tae-sik. Tae-sik lets So-mee in and gives her a pillow. Her mother calls her a garbage can when pregnant with her. Since Tae-sik is the pawnshop ghost, they become a band together.

Man-sik (Kim Hee-won) and Jong-sik (Kim Sung-oh) lead the gang. Man-sik chides Jong-sik for being careless so he vows to prove his worth to hunt the culprit down. Soo-mee gets beaten when she tries to steal a woman's handbag. She points at Tae-sik, pretending that he is her father. Tae-sik walks away and ignores this. Is she mad to steal? So-mee seizes the things at the provision shop. The owner tells Tae-sik to be a more responsible father when he offers to pay as children learn from the mistake.

Tae-sik uses a blanket to cover her. He sleeps at his own table and smiles faintly upon seeing that one of his nail is coloured. He knows that So-mee is the culprit. Tae-sik goes to vist his late wife and unborn baby at the crematorium. He hand trembles when touching the baby shoes.
Soo-mee gives Tae-sik a dark knight card. Does he ignore her earlier just because what she has done? She doesn't hate him or she will not have anyone to like anymore but her heart hurts. So-mee is startled to find strange men in her home later. One uses the hairdryer to scald Hyo-jeong after tying her up.

They are the traffickers. When the traffickers find out that the drugs are with Hyo-jeong, they kidnap the two. The gang sends a number of gangsters to Tae-sik's pawn shop to retrieve the stolen drugs. They are all defeated by Tae-sik - he takes out his wallet and grabs the chance to seize the weapon from a gangster to throw into the water basin.

He tells them that they have gone to the wrong place and Hyo-jeong's bag will be charged with interest. Jong-sik gets the women to talk to him. Upon learning that the gang now has the two, Tae-sik gives the beaten gang members the drugs. One of them, Ramrowan (Thanayong Wongtrakul) isn't satisfied and kills one man during the shoot-out.

Tae-sik informs the police but decides to rescue them on his own as the police is too slow. Realizing that Tae-sik is better skilled than their former subordinate , the brothers promise to release Hyo-jeong and So-mi under the condition that Tae-sik make a delivery for them. He gets a package from a locker. It has a toy car but heroin is hidden in it.

Tae-sik does not know that the delivery is part of a larger plot to eliminate a drug ring superior, Mr. Oh. Mr Oh has mistakened him to be his Chinese counterpart. Man-sik then calls to tell Mr Oh to run if he wants his life. Mr Oh throws the heroin at Tae-sik's face and his men thrusts him down to a net. He tries to stop Mr Oh by blocking his car.

Tae-sik walks out of his car and stops at the back of his car as it is opened. The police arrive and Tae-sik is arrested. Hyo-jeong is there but dead. Her body has her organs missing but it is sewn back. The police know that Mr Oh doesn't have this habit. Detective No (Lee Jong-pil) is puzzled over Tae-sik's existence as he appears from nowhere as his record isn't in the database for 3 years.

Tae-sik realizes that So-mee's life may be in danger. He gets away from the police station and sneaks into the nightclub to look for Chi-gon. Chi-gon attacks Tae-sik with his dagger but Tae-sik plunges the knife right into his shoulder! So Chi-gon sells her to the ants nest as Tae-sik observes. Ramrowan shoots Chi-gon dead but Tae-sik disappears into a cubicle. He reappears to retaliate and both blend into the crowd of people in the dance pool.

Ramrowan is armed with an axe while Tae-sik with Chi-gon's dagger. Man-sik is pleased with the development. Tae-sik runs out, only on time to see the van driving away. Jong-sik scolds his gangsters for being incompetent. Tae-sik is fed up when he can't catch up with the Man-sik's car. (This scene is cool!) He gets No's car and tails them. His stomach bleeds as Ramrowan shoots him but he hangs on, calling Man -sik, demanding to know how So-mee is now.

Man -sik replies that she isn't as mature in size as her mother so her organs don't worth money. Maybe her corneas can work as he is going to dig them out. He will make sure that Tae-sik will be in jail for 5 years but Tae-sik replies that he will only allow Man-sik to live till the next day if he only lives for now. Tae-sik goes to his friend who extracts the bullet from his stomach.

The police is bewildered at Tae-sik's display of power, combat techniques and agility. They further investigates his past and finds out that he was once a black operation agent for the Korean government with numerous commendations. He was a drill instructor for specialized forces. He also received a gold star and a military merit order.

Meanwhile, Tae-sik recalls the past of meeting his pregnant wife in the hospital to look at their baby scan. She is so touched that she cries. Tae-sik hugs both of them and gets baby shoes from a shop while she is in the car. He drops out from the shop after witnessing her being murdered in front of his eyes in connection with him by being hit by a truck while inside their car.

Tae-sik is also shot and the police come on time. He is past caring over his own wounds and sobs uncontrollably. He becomes agitated upon seeing blood flowing non-stop from the car. The incident nearly drove him mad even though he is sent to the military hospital on time. He goes into hiding after that. Tae-sik wants a gun from his friend. His friend dissuades him but he must find So-mee. It has only been a few days and he can't recall her face. He should have taken a photo of her.

Tae-sik starts cutting his hair short and has his wound dressed. (Female fans will drool over his 6 pack-figure and new look.) He gets a call from the police. They are going to hunt him down. Tae-sik becomes impatient and tells them to look for the brothers instead. So-mee is seen drawing money from the ATM so she is still alive. The cops comb Chinatown and Taw-sik is also there. So-mee is with other children who are kidnapped for drug trafficking. Seeing that Ramrowan has a scar on his forehead, she puts a plaster.

Will she get to see her mother if she behaves well? He doesn't answer her. Tae-sik comes across a toy machine which is out of order. So-mee might be around. The cops find drugs not in a cushion that a trafficker places in the wheelchair but in the crutches instead. he has to reveal where So-mee is - the traffickers make use of children to smuggle drugs for them, using the faculty toy machines. and - in the future - they might be killed for their organs.

No one will suspect this. (How wrong he is when Tae-sik is tailing a boy now!) He follows him into an archade and sees him passing drugs to others. The boy gets ATM cards to withdraw money then. Soo-mee is also in for mission to other homes. The cops tail Tae-sik and he gets impatient when they slow him down as the boy gets into the car. He jumps off the window and seizes a cab to tail the car. He finds the car at a garage and walks into it. He sees the children manufacturing drugs.

Tae-sik hides at a corner and observes how a girl faints due to drug sniffing. Tae-sik sees Jong-sik and goes in secretly. He sees a corpse in the freezer. One of them has a painted nail and he is enraged. He gets into another room and signals the children to get out. He kills some men and shoots Jong-sik on the leg, beating him up badly. How can Jong-sik wear a mask and harm the other children?

Jong-sik coughs out blood when his teeth are removed and Tae-sik calls Man-sik using Jong-sik's phone. At this instance, Tae-sik has planted a few nails into his leg. He demands to know where So-mee is and she must be brought to him within an hour. Man-sik hears Jong-sik's pathetic cries and gets nervous. He stresses that Tae-sik doesn't know whom he has offended. He informs Ramrowan to rip So-mee's eyes out.

Tae-sik kills Jong-sik for killing the children by burning the whole garage. That is sure a painful way to die indeed when the kerosene burns with the drugs. Jong-sik protests that they are abandoned by their parents and worth nothing. Tae-sik has made up his mind that he must apologise to them. Tae-sik is outside with the children to witness this and gives one of them his handphone so that they can return home.

So-mee refuses to believe that her mother is dead and pleads to see her. The policemen found the children. A mad doctor is about to remove So-mee's eyes at Man-sik's posh condo. He doesn't understand why Tae-sik comes all the way for her as her next-door neighbour. ( I love this part - I was forced to watch many sentimental scenes that tried to squeeze tears from the audience. Won Bin's one word answer ‘ the uncle next door' shows his concern and their close connection.)

Jong-sik fishes a jar from the pool - it holds harvested eyes. Tae-sik holds it with his trembling hands and sobs. (We can only see his eyes from this scene but can feel his deep anguish.) She has gone to heaven to look for her mother without her eyes. Tae-sik is wrong to mess up with him. Man-sik demands to know where Jong-sik is. Tae-sik becomes composed and asks him how many teeth he has as he accepts gold teeth as a pawnshop owner. He will chew everything else. (Everyone knows that Tae-sik is going to start a killing spree.)

A final stand-off with Ramrowan's sidekicks start, with Tae-sik winning the fight. He delivers good punches and kills all with his gun. He even grabs a knife and sprays blood of his victims everywhere but leaving deep cuts on their arms. He is about to pick up the container when Ramrowan shoots it. The glass container breaks into piece. Meanwhile, the cops wonder how Tae-sik gets his gun.

Ramrowan takes out his dagger and charges towards Tae-sik. Both display high skills using the same weapon but Tae-sik kills him but stabbing him faster. He kills off Man-sik in the parking lot who tries to get away with the money, He bursts his car wheels and jumps to the car top but the whole car is bulletproof so he fails to kill from there. Man-sik becomes frightened and calls the police for help.

Tae-sik is undeterred as he keeps shooting at the same spot, causing a big hole to form. He finally kills him with his last bullet. Tae-sik is about to shoot himself in the head after loading his gun. He has lost his will to live when he hears a voice, calling him mister. A scared and dirty So-mee emerges from the darkness. She asks Tae-sik if he comes to save her. He hides his gun and tells her to stay away or she will get blood on her. She runs to him and hugs him.

Tae-sik starts tearning and holds her shoulder although he resists touching her head. She is saved by Ramrowan who took to her kindly and kills instead the surgeon accomplice - His eyes are in the container that Tae-sik sees when the cops recover his body.

Detective No escorts Tae-sik and So-mee together in the back of his car. While she sleeps, he touches her hair. Tae-sik asks if they can be dropped off at the small convenience store - a surprise for So-mee. The owner gets a shock upon seeing all the police lined up around them, and he says that So-mee really messes it up big time.

Tae-sik chooses a nice backpack with a star, and fills it up with fancy school stuff, much to her delight. Tae-sik asks if he can hug her, and as they embrace, he could not stop the tears as they fall from his face. He has treated her like a daughter that he fails to have.

Interesting facts
Director Lee Jeong-Bum started writing the screenplay in January, 2009. Initially the main character was s a 60 year old North Korean agent. Won Bin read the script and wanted to play Tae-sik. Tae-sik was then re-written to accommodate his younger age and his background as well. He got someone to design the martial arts that blend silt, kali and arnis. Won Bin had to master it within a short period.

Won Bin insisted on handling most scenes on his own. Thus, he became an ‘A' list actor in the film industry now. To become an accomplished actor, he has to be serious in his work to do his best. That also includes sincerity and loyalty. This is the meaning of beauty. He cited that he lived daily to present the best side of his acting career. More than 90% of his acting was due to hard work and not talent.

Tae-sik was an introvert - this is similar to Won Bin in real life. He admitted that many of the roles he had taken had some similarities to his true self. He was shy and his heartbeat accelerated whenever he faced his fans. Thus, he could only smile as he did not know what to talk to them. The main reason was also most of them were women.

Was he a loner? He loved to be alone but he did not have many chances in real life. He loved autumn (not sure if this was due to the drama ‘ Tale of Autumn' though as when he related, the drama scenes came to my mind.) most as he liked to look at fallen leaves and bared branches. He could look at the blue sky and also enjoyed the cool breeze. He enjoyed the lonely feeling and loneliness was his friend.

He would be taking photos with his camera and draw sketches. That was his most comfortable moment. Although he adored working with someone on issues, he enjoyed his personal space as drawing helped to clear his confused mind.

Won Bin had to rely on his eyes on many emotional scenes. that was tough on him. The movie was action packed and actions were important. However, he was more concerned with showing Tae-sik's feelings. Tae-sik could give up everything for So-mee and that could only be shown through actions.
He was not used to be called as uncle by Sae-ron during their first meet. However, many assured him that he became mature after his national service days. The 10 year old Sae-ron did not even know who he was. After knowing that he was not that old, she called him ‘elder brother', He was also nervous as he was unsure how to handle little children on the set.

Yet, he took very good care of Sae-ron and taught her how to act. She was thrilled when he gave her a pink notebook as her birthday present. (Not the ordinary notebook but the electronic device - many female fans must be envying her.) Both went to many movie awards together and their happiest moment was to win the awards together.

This movie was made to be M18 due to the violent fighting scenes. Won Bin did not expect such good results as the movie was the top for 5 weeks. It was shown for a few months and the movie grossed best earnings in 2010, winning ‘Inception'. He was grateful to all who praised his acting and also thanked those who watched the movie in the cinema to give him support. He had read the whole script before deciding to take up the role. He would not take up a role that he could not express.

Won Bin guarded his private life fiercely and kept a low profile. Although there were rumours of him having girlfriends through shooting CVs with them, he did not even bother to clarify. The rumours died automatically - what a smart move!

These are the list of impressive awards that it won :
2010: Buil Film Awards - Best Music: Shim Hyun-jung, Special Award (Buil Independence Judge):
2010: Grand Bell Awards - Best Actor: Won Bin, Popularity Award: Won Bin Best Editing and Best Visual Effects:
2010: Korea Film Awards - Best Actor: Won Bin, Best New Actress: Kim Sae-ron, Best Cinematography: Lee Tae-yoon, Best Lighting, Best Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Music
2010: Blue Dragon Film Awards - Technical Award, Popularity Award: Won Bin, Box Office Award:
2010: University Film Festival of Korea - Best Director: Lee Jeong-beom, Best Actor: Won Bin, Best Cinematography, Best Music:
2010: Director's Cut Awards - Best Production
2010: National Assembly of South Korea: Pop Culture & Media Awards - 2010 Best Movie:
2011: Film Reporter Association Annual Awards - Best Actor: Won Bin
2011: MaxMovie Awards - Best Director: Lee Jeon-beom, Best Actor: Won Bin, Best New Actress: Kim Sae-ron

Won Bin's Tae-sik is a middle-aged man. But this ‘uncle' must have been the most handsome uncle in Korean movie history. Won Bin's interpretation of it was a man must be manly. He is right indeed. Tae-sik talks little and looks cool - the director doesn't beautify the role or clone him from other Hollywood movies. In fact, he hardly showed the other half of his face which was covered by his hair.

Even though he is blinded by rage and revenge, he has a soft side. He was cute in some scenes. He could help So-mee to hide from her mother when she comes to look for her. When his little neighbour is kidnapped, he dashes to save her.

Tae-sik is a daring man and is a highly-skilled ex-secret agent. Tae-sik fights well and his aiming in shooting with the gun is accurate. He can fend off more than 10 men at a time. He even blows up the drug syndicate's headquarters. But unlike others who live for the next day, he lives for the present day.

Won Bin shines in the role as he deals with the role earnestly. The many scenes between him and Sae-ron showed how much love he showered on her. He had indeed shed his previous roles as the poster boy. There was zero exaggerating element here.

This little girl isn't an angel. She lies and steals, coming from a dysfunctional home. She has no one to depend on and disliked to be looked down. She has unknowingly treated Tae-sik like a father although she calls him uncle when she is caught by the police. Seo-ron has many touching scenes with Won Bin and I believe she can advance far if she grows up to be an actress.

However, I must complain that the killing scenes could be too bloody. Most were quite unnecessary although they show Won Bin's swift actions. He kills but he manages to get saved from being killed by himself. The director just wanted to create a hero to save the weak. This hero is normally a man who must have an impressive background. I will still urge all to watch this movie as it truly shows how Won Bin gets his success through his own ability.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : **** (Scale of 5)

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

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