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(Movie Review) 'The Man From Nowhere' delivers but has little at heart
By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- In the action flick "The Man From Nowhere," Won Bin sheds his image as a suave flower boy and transforms into a mysterious stud who, donning a black suit and shaggy, overgrown hair, can kill anyone without blinking an eye.

   He slits open the throats of evil men, smashes their heads, sprays bullets and jumps out of a building and into a racing car. But why, and to what end? The movie by Lee Jeong-bum offers an engaging story charged with arduous action scenes and a speedy narrative for those with a taste for the extreme, but it is hardly the emotionally touching piece the director might have meant it to be.Won Bin
The film revolves around Tae-shik (Won), a former special agent and widower who now runs a drab pawn shop in a back alley in Seoul. What binds him to such a somber life is not explained at the beginning of the film, but it's a young girl named So-mi (Kim Sae-ron) who awakens in him the tormenting memories of his lost family, prompting him to confront the outside world again.

   A troubled, lonesome girl living with a single mother who works in a red-light district, So-mi is the only friend to Tae-shik, who doesn't mix or socialize with any of his neighbors. Their nascent friendship is tested when So-mi's mother becomes involved in a drug deal and is kidnapped by the thugs behind the scheme. So-mi is also taken captive, and there begins Tae-shik's long, grueling chase to rescue his only friend.

   The drug dealers happen to be connected to a human trafficking ring that engages internationally in the trade of human organs, a point that makes the action film partially surreal and overly brutal. Tae-shik is portrayed as an invincible terminator, who never loses composure as he evades bullet sprays and wipes out dozens of thugs at once. In one of the battle scenes, a Thai thug (Thanayong Wongtrakul) strangely leaves the unarmed Tae-shik alive, while shooting dead his injured colleague instead. Asked about this unconvincing generosity, the thug later answered that he spared Tae-shik's life because "he didn't flinch."

   Some scenes are deliberately brutal and disgusting -- a pair of eyeballs floating in a glass bottle -- and they sometimes feel like an over-the-top device set up to fill the void at the heart of the story.
As dead bodies pile up, police officers join the chase, naming Tae-shik as a key suspect of the criminal rings. Their investigation reveals the mysteries that torment his past and explains why the death of his pregnant wife shut him off from the outside world. The director possibly intended for the tragic loss to explain Tae-shik's urge to risk his life to save So-mi and how their emotional bond builds, but the link somehow looks weak and is left to viewers' imaginations. Audiences may even nod and long to hear Tae-shik's answer when one of the thugs asks him, "Why are you trying so hard to rescue a girl next door?"

   Overall, the movie is an entertaining feat in which Won emits his charm, but its extreme violence will distract those who yearn to be moved at heart.

   "The Man From Nowhere," rated over 18 and produced by Opus Pictures, is set for local release on Aug. 4.

   hkim@yna.co.kr
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