Each time I go to write out The Man From Nowhere, it normally turns out as The Man Who Wasn’t There, the noir style Coen Brother’s film. This is nowhere near similar. The Man From Nowhere is a South Korean revenge thriller with many cool moments and some twisted characters, which really work to its advantage. Unfortunately, due to some weak storytelling, this move never really reaches its full potential.
Cha Tae-Sik’s (Won Bin) life is a total mystery to the people around him. He is a pawn shop owner whose only friend is an eight year old girl, So-Mi (Kim Sae-ron), whose mother (Kim Hyo-seo) is a drug addict and dealer. After So-Mi’s mother gets mixed up with a violent gang, she and So-Mi are kidnapped. This forced Tae-Sik back into the whorl using the skills of his violent path to rescue his only friend in the world. With this violent gang and the DEA on his trail, the odds don’t look like Tae-Sik will be getting out of this alive.
Let’s start with the good. The main characters in this film are excellent even though they are surrounded by generic supporting characters. Won Bin pulls off the stoic loner with a rough past to perfection making him a believably badass character. Some of the fights he engages in are out of this world awesome, especially during a long knife fight towards the end. Kim Sae-Ron gives an impressive performance for being so young, and Kim Hee-won and Kim Sung-ho are devilishly twisted villains who are really easy to hate.
The director, Lee Jeong-beom makes it obvious with The Man From Nowhere that he is a very talented film maker. His camera and acting direction is top notch. There is one specific shot of Tae-Sik jumping out of a window, and instead of the camera cutting away to the outside, it actually follows him quickly through the window. I can not figure out how this was done. Out of all of the parts in the movie, that one quick shot is what is sticking with me the most.
The Man From Nowhere unfortunately does suffer from some weaknesses that don’t ruin the movie, but do prevent it from being excellent. The storyline involving the DEA is pretty boring with characters I have seen in a lot of other films. These law enforcement characters weren’t layered in any way, making them very difficult to care about. These bland characters are still overshadowed by the really great ones, so this is a very small complaint.
What really detracted from the movie was the strange pace that it moved at. Having a slow moving gangster film is just fine, as well as a fast moving one. This one had no idea what it wanted to be, fast or slow. There will be times where the plot slow down to a crawl then out of nowhere speeds up to a crazy fast pace. This style of pacing may work for certain types of movies, but not for this one.
In a way, I was a little bit disappointed with the The Man From Nowhere, but then I start thinking about it and like it a little bit more. I can’t really say how much I liked it for sure with my feelings for it changing with every passing hour. I’d say I’m very mixed on it. It’s definitely a good movie, but the pacing and bland supporting characters keep this film from achieving greatness. I will say that I’ll watch it again, and hope that a second viewing will help me to like it a little bit more. I’d say give The Man From Nowhere a try.