Having previously starred in dramas throughout his career, Won Bin, under the guidance of director and fight choreographer Lee Jeong-Beom, finally landed his first role as an action hero in the 2010 multiple, award-winning blockbuster “The Man from Nowhere”.
Won Bin stars as Cha Tae-Sik, a former secret agent who becomes an anti-social pawnshop dealer after losing his wife in a car crash. Child star Kim Sae-Ron is So-Mi, a young girl and next-door neighbour who is Tae-Sik’s only friend. Kim Hyo-Seo portrays Hyo-Jeong, So-Mi’s drug addicted mother. As for the antagonists, we have Kim Hee-Won and Kim Sung-Oh as brothers Man-Seok and Jeong-Seok respectively, Thanayong Wongtrakul as Ramrowan, and Song Young-Chang as leader Oh Myung-Gyu.
After losing his pregnant wife in a car crash organized by an assassin, former secret agent Cha Tae-Sik becomes aloof from society and lives a quiet life as a pawnshop dealer, with a young girl and next-door neighbor So-Mi as his only friend. However, when So-Mi’s heroin-addicted mother Hyo-Jeong steals drugs from a drug-and-organ trafficking group led by Oh Myung-Gyu, So-Mi and Hyo-Jeong find themselves kidnapped by that same group, and Tae-Sik must save them. Things unfortunately go from bad to worse as the gang’s subordinates and brothers Man-Seok and Jong-Seok bribe Tae-Sik into completing a drug delivery to set up Myung-Gyu in exchange for So-Mi and Hyo-Jeong’s lives only for Tae-Sik to find Hyo-Jeong killed with her organs removed and Tae-Sik himself framed for the murder.
“The Man from Nowhere” takes a quality-over-quantity approach to its fight scenes similar to that of SPL/Killzone, so there aren’t too many fights to be seen here, but when they come, boy do they deliver!
The first fight is a classic brawl between a gangster known as Teddy Bear and other gangsters. This serves as an appetizer, however and we have yet to sample the main course, which comes in the form of our hero’s exhibitions of fighting prowess, about halfway through the film.
With that being said, there are bones to broken, knives to be disarmed and the enemies’ own aggression being used against themselves, and not once do the fights let down. In addition, you’ll see really good use of the Filipino art of Kali or Escrima. The final fight is the best part of the film, and this is where the brutality and bloodshed are at their height. The final showdown begins with a shootout between Tae-Sik and the gangsters, but the guns are thrown away after a few minutes in favour of Tae-Sik engaging the gangsters in hand-to-hand combat.
There’s nothing sophisticated about the choreography as what’s offered is more the brutal and realistic fight scene variety that is worth appreciating. It appears the fights draw a significant influence from Steven Seagal classics such as “Above the Law”, “Hard to Kill” and “Out for Justice”, and are sometimes decorated with a notable amount of graphic blood, relevant to the film’s dark tone. You’ll notice that Tae-Sik is constantly using one of the gangsters to shield off the other gangsters, which is a nod to realistic self-defence/street fighting manoeuvres. One part I personally liked is when Tae-Sik drags one of the gangsters on the floor, whilst inflicting a major knife injury as he backs off from the other gangsters. After taking out the gangsters, Tae-Sik has one last knife fight against Ramrowan, and this is where elements of Kali/Escrima mentioned earlier become most prevalent.
While action fans may not like “The Man from Nowhere” for its apparent dearth of fight scenes and lack of flashy combat sequences, it should be said that this is still an exceptional film offering from Korea. It gives you a better-than-expected run for your money excelling in both the action and drama departments.
- Won Bin holds a black belt in Taekwondo, and has attended Yong-In University, which is well-known for its Taekwondo program.
- Although this is Won Bin’s first action film, it’s also his latest film.
- “The Man from Nowhere” was the highest grossing Korean film in 2010.
- It’s one of few Korean films to currently hold a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- There is an Indian remake of the film called “Rocky Handsome”. Dimension Films had also acquired rights to do an English-language remake back in 2012.
- Director Lee Jeong-beom later went on to direct 2014 actioner “No Tears for the Dead”.