Tuesday | 02/06/2024 by Lars Hindsley — Why review a movie over ten years old? Before Netflix made Korean shows as cool as K-pop, this hardly known 2010 Korean action film The Man From Nowhere was an impossible import. The Man From Nowhere has made it’s way to Netflix and if you like action movies, this martial arts film will leave you wanting more.
Sure, the title The Man From Nowhere tells you its styled as a quiet man film. And yes it employs some common story telling plot devices — A man left with nothing enduring his solitude with no interest in caring for anyone but himself. More could be listed which would give you cause to think this film is using too many worn out macho narratives. And to offer them up now will ruin the mystery that unfolds. But if Kill Bill had more sophistication , and Leon the Professional had more grace with a tear jerker ending… You’d have The Man From Nowhere.
Billed as Korea’s top billing film of 2010 and rated R for intense violence and implied gruesome acts, it’s considered an Action-Thriller. It delivers on that promise.
The Man From Nowhere breaks convention of the modern cinema in media res intro. In fact, The Man From Nowhere doesn’t even launch into action until the second act. In true slow burn form we learn to identify with the characters that are densely packed into the story. You’re lulled into seeing the sensitivity our protagonist has buried. Only when you think you understand where the story is going, the tension blows. You gotta give to the director, it takes balls to make your audience wait this long. It works. When hell breaks loose the previous pacing of a suspense thriller is gone. Get out your popcorn, it’s all action from here out.
It’s not just action. It comes off quite fresh, which is what makes The Man From Nowhere a film that holds up over time with more than just aspects you find re-watchable. It’s almost compelling you to relive it again later as you espouse the action to a friend. When you re-watch it with friends, it still comes off exciting as you watch them expect something different then get smacked in the face when the pay off arrives in act two.
If you can’t tolerate subtitles the film does have an optional English dubbed track. It’s worth viewing a second time to compare the sub-titles to the English spoken interpretation of its original Korean language. While the film is shot in dark stylization the cinematography is ultra modern fitting in with any top studio film in the U.S
CHA Tae-Shik played by Bin Won portrays a mercilessly solitary man reminiscent of the Man With No Name classic spaghetti westerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Tae-Shik grudgingly befriends a neighbors daughter as he tries to mind his own small pawnshop business but when the little girl’s mother has her daughter pawn a camera with drugs she stole from a drug ring, he ends up in the middle of everyone else’s fight.
We eventually learn why Tae-Shik has become the man he is. With police watching everything they soon decide they need to capture Tae-Shik. He has a lot going against him. His mysterious background proves more than enough for everyone to handle.
The underbelly of Korea’s modern world becomes the backdrop for close combat fights, chases, and graphic deaths. The martial arts element is de-emphasized giving everything a more serious and real tone. The close of the story is quite touching as we come down off the action and back into the melodrama of why our hero began his quest in the first place.
Where Leon the Professional had no intentions of making you cry at the end, you’ll have a hard time avoiding it with this one. Just be sure to catch it on Netflix before it leaves the streaming platform.
Director: Jeong-beom Lee
Writer: Lee Jeong-beom
Starring: Bin Won, Sae-ron Kim and Hyo-seo Kim
Run Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: August 4, 2010