The Man from Nowhere 2010 movie

The Man from Nowhere – Revenge and Style from the Far East

Among the best prototypes for an action hero is the silent, lonely man, like the protagonist of this adrenaline-fueled, dramatic 2010 movie, The Man from Nowhere.

In that sense, no one is more reclusive than Mr. Cha Tae-sik, who owns a store where he does pawnshop work for the poor people of the neighborhood, who bring him all kinds of junk for spare change.

The only spark of humanity in his life is the friendship with So-mee, the little daughter of his neighbor, Hyo-jeong, a junkie who spends her time among criminals and, when she is home, is mostly always heavily stoned.

So, one day, while her mother is knockout, she makes the mistake of stealing a dose of heroin and hiding it in Mr. Tae-sik‘s store.

Of course, the criminals‘ response will not be long. After kidnapping mother and daughter, they demand the return of their stuff, but even this is not enough.

Indeed, this gang of ruthless killers traffics not only in drugs but also in human beings, having a real business of doctors who remove the organs of their victims and sell them at a high price while the police pretend nothing is happening.

To help So-mee, the hero tries to play along and go along with their demands, but everything changes when he realizes there is no way to bargain or reason with these thugs.

The gang tries to rip him off and have him arrested during a drug deal that they report to the police, but Tae-sik easily breaks free from custody by easily fleeing the station.

At that point, the police discover he is not an ordinary man but an elite South Korean secret agent, and nothing and no one can stop him from saving his little friend.

A ruthless world without honor

Indeed, there is no shortage of action and revenge movies in the cinema, but The Man from Nowhere director and screenwriter Lee Jeong-beam created something exceptional that, fortunately, left the South Korean cinematic market in 2010 and reached international audiences.

Despite its modest production, The Man from Nowhere managed to amass a staggering $50 million worldwide. This success story not only brought well-deserved recognition to Eastern cinema but also defied the odds of poor distribution that often plague such films, making it a must-watch for movie enthusiasts.

Although it is a story with much action, its true soul is old-time noir, modernized with a faster-paced style and a screenplay that boldly tackles such not-easy topics as organ trafficking or child prostitution.

We can also see the black soul of this story in the color palette; for example, even during the day, the filming seems almost nighttime, always with many reflective surfaces creating a brilliant play of mirrors in which reflections and lights intertwine to form a modern-day black tale.

The action scenes are fast and brutal but also elegant in the choreography of the stunt performers and camera movements, with the absolutely flawless protagonist Won Bin, an unstoppable war machine who deceives with his apathetic gaze, appearing to be disinterested in all humankind, except then becoming animated with murderous rage when little Kim Sae-ron gets into serious trouble.

Wanting to make a minor criticism; perhaps there are also too many secondary characters, and the story could have been even better and more straightforward by reducing to the essentials the many criminals and cops surrounding our hero.

But even so, this movie remains an unexpected and welcome surprise, which I hope will open the eyes of many people who are not familiar with oriental cinema.

A group of bad guys who are so good

As mentioned, the unfolding of the movie always keeps the tension line high, despite a “search and revenge” plot we have seen many times before with dialogues (especially of the villains, since the hero doesn’t speak much) always exaggerated and over the top almost like a cartoon comic.

Paradoxically, it’s the lack of believability in their enjoyment of being bloodthirsty and ruthless that makes this gallery of villains so compelling. Their exaggerated villainy propels the invincible hero into a constant state of action, navigating a series of memorable, dirty, and criminal environments where desperation and violence reign.

So the gang that torments the protagonist is led by the elegant Song Young-chang, boss of the South Korean criminal underworld who manages the life and death of the people he has kidnapped and killed so usually that he almost seems to be running an ordinary mom-and-pop store.

Then, at his command, we find the crazy deputy bosses and brothers Kim Hee-won and Kim Sung-oh, the two characters we will see most of the time giving Won Bin a hard time.

Two brothers, who are over-the-top caricatures of every criminal stereotype, unleash this madness and violence more out of curiosity about the protagonist than out of personal interest or gain, having an imperative need to impose their cruelty on anyone who stands in their way.

Equally disturbing is the matron who holds the children captive, Baek Su-Ryun, whom we only see in a few scenes but manages to make her mark with her seemingly innocent appearance as the older woman next door, but who has an army of henchmen ready to fight at the snap of her fingers.

At first, I grappled with what sets this 2010 movie apart from numerous other action-revenge stories, yet I can assure you The Man from Nowhere offers a unique and all-encompassing experience that must be witnessed firsthand to comprehend why Oriental cinema always diverges from the high-budget productions of Hollywood and its surroundings.

The Man from Nowhere 2010 movie
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