The Killer Wolf or Howling (2012) is based on the novel The Hunter by Japanese writer Asa Nonami (OUP, 2006). It’s A Detective Takako Otomichi Mystery and it won the Naoki prize in 1996. As a novel, I could be unkind and say it’s a bit like Cagney & Lacy investigate Cujo, i.e. it features an indomitable woman detective facing appalling sexism from her police colleagues and superiors while investigating a weird and wonderful crime that morphs into a death-by-dog story. Or I could compare it to Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich which is an equally wonderful story exploiting the presence of a dangerous animal (creditably adapted as Leopard Man by Val Lewton). Either way, the Japanese novel is a very interesting read, albeit that the translation is slightly heavy going, and this film makes an honest effort at reproducing it on the screen.
Courtesy of director Han Yo, we now find the novel relocated to Korea with Cha Eun-Young (Na-yeong Lee finally putting The Fugitive: Plan B behind her), a young female police officer, promoted from the motorcycle patrol unit to detective. Courtesy of the Chief Detective (Jeong-geun Sin), she’s teamed up with Sang-gil Jo (Kang-ho Song). He’s the usual older detective who only needs one big case to score a promotion to captain of detectives. Unfortunately, he has three problems. He’s not that bright, preferring to bend the rules with threats and violence to extract information from reluctant sources. He’s a loner. And he’s deeply sexist and doubly prefers to work alone if the person he’s supposed to partner is a woman. So you can imagine his joy when he’s told to take the case of what looks like a very unusual suicide. He can’t see this as promotion material and resents the presence of Cha Eun-Young.
Now two words about the set-up. The death they are to investigate proves to be one of these hang-on-a-minute, the-murder-weapon-is-a-what? type of case. (My apologies for producing such a long compound adjective.) This is a death-by-belt case and, even by my standards, one of the more unusual methods I’ve seen or read. Anyway, once we’ve established the cause of death, the only other interesting feature of the body is that the deceased had recently been bitten by a large canine. The second slight problem is a completely unresolved issue between Sang-gil Jo and his son (Min-ho Lee) that flashes across the screen and is never mentioned again. It’s hard to see why the director bothered because nothing in the senior detective’s subsequent behaviour seems to be affected by this confrontation.
Now all the good things about this film. No! my apologies. That’s the wrong way round. It’s quicker and easier to tell you what’s wrong with it. Actually, there’s very little wrong with it. The only two problems lie in the mawkish sentimentality that develops in the relationship between Cha Eun-Young and the wolf-dog, and the interminable time she follows the dog on her motorbike. Were it not for these blemishes, it would be an excellent film. As it is, the result is only very good. So why is it so good? The answer lies in the performance of Na-yeong Lee.
For a moment, I need to go back to the execrable The Fugitive: Plan B. Although the script was dire, she never lost her dignity. She deserved better. This script offers her the chance to show us what she can do as an actress, and she gives what can only be described as an understated and restrained performance. As many other films and television series have repeatedly shown, both Japan and Korea are deeply sexist. This is a woman who dares trespass into an essentially male territory. No matter that she has exceptional investigative skills, her very presence is offensive to the other members of the team. Indeed, she’s hard to ignore simply because she shows them up as less competent. So they want her to keep a very low profile. When she refuses and is injured in the line of duty, they try to hold her in the office. When she follows her senior’s solo line, the Chief Detective slaps her face. In other words, the Team does its best to drive her away, then takes the benefit of her work as their own and relegates her to the motorcycle patrol. It’s no more than you would expect. Even Sang-gil Jo who has moments when he stands up for her, refuses her implied request that he takes her as a detective into his new team — yes, he does get promoted to captain thanks to his partner’s work. As an actor, Kang-ho Song isn’t really asked to do very much except tag along behind her although he does finally arrive in time to rescue her when she recklessly takes on an entire gang of armed villains. It should be said that all the fighting shows complete realism. At no point does anyone manage one of these martial arts balletic kicks or a magical blow with the fist or a throw casting an assailant through a window twenty feet away. Mostly people grapple and do their best to disable each other with the least risk to themselves.
So this is a superior police procedural which has an interesting murder plot for the detectives to unravel. Na-yeong Lee gets it right in the end and the men catch up to take the credit as you would expect. If it had retained its hard edge throughout, it would have been an outstanding thriller as the wolf-dog takes down more victims (don’t forget the belt). But it plays the same game as the Lassie films and humanises the dog. Yes, it’s a killer but that’s just what it’s been trained to do. Thanks to Han Yo’s direction, we’re supposed to want Na-yeong Lee to bring it in from the cold and place it in a home for retired homicidal wolves. Forgetting the sentimentality, you should see The Killer Wolf or Howling (2012) because of the quality of Na-yeong Lee’s performance. Even if you can’t get to see the film, the novel The Hunter by Asa Nonami is worth reading.
Well, now things have taken a more interesting turn as we head into what I pray will be the finishing straight. Detective Do Soo (Jeong-jin Lee) ends up with the gold. Don’t you just love it when the honest cop gets the chance to go wrong. Well, he exports himself and the gold to the Philippines. In close pursuit go girlfriend Detective Yoon So-ran (Yun Jin-seo), Ji Woo (Rain) and Jin Yi (Na-yeong Lee), with Nakamura (Sung Dong Il) linking up with the idiot local PI called James Bong (Jo Hee Bong). Everything then grinds to a halt as Do Soo gets bored, but is rescued from that boredom by the arrival of his girlfriend. He sleeps with the girl which is the first intelligent thing he has done so far in this show. Needless to say, Ji Woo doesn’t get to have sex with Jin Yi because she falls asleep. Thank God everyone will be awake in the morning when a devious plot from Nakamura is supposed to steal all the gold from Do Soo’s safe.
Well, thanks to Nakamura having recruited Ji Woo’s assistant, Ji Woo knows all about the plan to steal the gold at the party. Kai (Daniel Henney) is there and gets the cold shoulder from Jin Yi. Sophie (Kim Soo Hyun) watches him mooning after her and is disgusted. She therefore helps Ji Woo steal the gold when Nakamura isn’t looking. So now Ji Woo and Jin Yi momentarily have the gold in their joint care but, after an argument about what should happen to it, Jin Yi takes off with it on her own. Meanwhile, Kai is pressuring the son of General Wei (Ti Lung), who is running for President. If the son does not warn his father away from Jin Yi, there will be a lot of whistleblowing. When Kai returns to the hotel where he lives while in Seoul, Sophie walks out on him. As she stalks through the lobby, she sees the professional hitman getting into the lift. Improbably, she runs up twenty-three stories and intercepts the hitman as he is about to enter Kai’s room. Not too out of breath, she tries to reason with the assassin and then vaguely attacks him. For her trouble, he stabs her but the arrival of hotel security drives him away. Now Kai leaves his room, picks her up and runs from the hotel with Sophie in his arms. Later he’s standing on guard over her in hospital. There’s affection but still nothing that’s going to divert him from his path which is to confront the General to save Jin Yi. In due course, he’s on his way to a meeting. He’s fairly confident it’s a trap but if this is one of the ways in which he can frustrate the General and keep Jin Yi alive, that’s what he’s going to do. This is Daniel Henney looking all serious, dark and handsome.
Meanwhile Nakamura takes Ji Woo captive in his own office. When Ji Woo wakes from the gas used to overcome him, they discuss where Jin Yi might have taken the gold. Nakamura does all the work of tracking her down and then, with the help of a paperclip, Ji Woo is free from the handcuffs, turns the tables and rushes off to save Jin Yi. As we know, the hitman has a sniper rifle and is lining up the shot to take down anyone coming into his sites. He’s expecting three victims.
Do Soo has returned from the Philippines and gives himself up to the police. After he finishes blackmailing the Chief into withdrawing the arrest warrant, he’s teaming himself up with ex-Detective Yoon So-ran to crack the case and so win their jobs back.
Ji Woo intercepts the hitman before he can shoot the two ex-love birds and they hand him over to Do Soo who, somewhat improbably, transports him around the city in a filing cabinet. Moving along, we have two developments. Nakamura offers his services to the General who is perfectly honest that he want Ji Woo dead. At the Ji Woo’s office, James Bong appears supported by heavies, except they prove no match for Ji Woo who escapes them and lures them to a nearby mall where they appear just in time to rescue him when the meeting between Jin Yi and the General goes pear-shaped. The General, you see, tells the angry daughter that her grandfather was a criminal, stealing the gold and then trying to blackmail the General. So every cent she has had in her life has come from the stolen gold — a bit demoralising. In all the excitement, Ji Woo is shot and bleeds convincingly — about the only piece of his acting so far with any credibility.
We now start to come towards the end — a merciful release as I think this serial may have done serious damage to my brain. Sophia goes to kill the General but fails (no surprise — she’s been incompetent from the start). Kai goes to reason and then threaten the General’s son and is then taken off by “prosecutors” (yeah, right). Do Soo and partner are still on the case and have recovered a recording of the General’s confession (if only they can get it to play). Ji Woo and Jin Yi visit with the General’s son and may be convinced he’s going to do the right think and tell everyone the truth. Naturally, when they go to his office, they get set upon by a gang of men with big sticks. This is not fatal and, in due course, they leave the hospital quietly. And finally, Nakamura and James Bong continue bumbling along in pursuit of the gold. This is just so bad, it’s unbelievable, particularly now the director has begun to play completely inappropriate, vaguely operatic music in the background. Honestly, it defies belief that anyone who made this or agreed to participate in it could possible think it any good.
Now we have one of those revelations where I can honestly say, “I didn’t see that coming.” Not that I care anymore but the mad professor, Hwang Mi Jin (Yoon Son Ha) isn’t dead. She’s been wounded, now apparently confined to a wheelchair, but is still in the game. In this exciting instalment, the self-righteous son decides he can get himself voted in as the next President if only he hides his father away for the duration, can recover all the evidence including the gold, and kill anyone else who gets in his way. So when Jin Yi calls him and offers to return the gold in return for a public, he’s all to willing to co-operate. That way, he can get the gold and kill the girl. By this time, Do Soo and fiance have recovered the recording of the general confessing to the crimes and have handed it over the one of the responsible police departments in Korea. Now Ji Woo and Do Soo are lurking nearby hoping to protect Jin Yi when she meets the Presidential wannabe. He takes the sample gold bar and sends in the gang of thugs to kill everyone. Cue another of the interminable fights we’ve come to love. But, this time, we have an unexpected outcome. The fight spreads and the fiance is killed. During all the confusion, Nakamura makes off with the gold which has been in Jin Yi’s car, hidden inside the spare tyre.
Now we come into the final few minutes and all this pain will soon be over. Kai tells international journalists all about the conspiracy. Do Soo rejoins the police force and goes all righteous to catch all the high-ranking police officers and politicians who have been involved. And there’s a final press conference in which Jin Yi and Ji Woo confront the son on the eve of his election triumph and produce the final bar of gold that’s been hidden away for such a rainy day. So Jin Yo and Ji Woo drive off into the sunset. Do Soo implacably starts arresting people, and Kai walks away from Sophie. Oh, and to avoid arrest, the General shoots himself. The only person who really comes out ahead is Nakamura who’s left to spend some of the money on an expensive holiday before Ji Woo sets off to track him down.
Without fear of contradiction, this is one of the worst television dramas I can recall watching. It has every possible feature to hate. Rain’s acting as Ji Woo produced something so malevolently unpleasant, you wonder he still has any fans left. This is a creepy pervert who spies on women and tries to paw them when given half a chance. He may be clever in an odd kind of way, but this is the ultimate anti-hero. Daniel Henney did his best with his saturnine good looks to sleepwalk through, hoping no-one would notice how bad it all was. It remains a genuine curiosity to see him alternately speak English and then be dubbed for some pithy remarks before lapsing back into English again. After all this time as a star in Korea, you would think he would have learned a little of the language. Jeong-jin Lee as Detective Do Soo was ludicrously monomaniacal for most of the series but did show some sincerity when Yun Jin-seo was killed. I think I ended up quite liking Sung Dong Il as Nakamura. He did managed to send himself up as venal from the outset. This leaves us with Na-yeong Lee as Jin Yi. She’s repeatedly threatened, captured and beaten up throughout the series but manages to emerge with some dignity despite the whole thing being a rerun of The Perils of Pauline with her replacing Pearl White. No-one else matters.
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Well here we go with the third summary of this increasingly silly serial. There’s attempted humour as the corrupt police push Detective Do Soo (Jeong-jin Lee) and his group through disciplinary proceedings. Meanwhile Kai (Daniel Henney) goes to see the son of General Wei (Ti Lung) who’s about to run in the presidential elections. When the General hears of this, he instructs Kai’s secretary Sophie (Kim Soo Hyun) to kill Kai at the first available opportunity — poison is handed off to her in the hotel lift and the countdown to betrayal begins. Except, of course, she’s been mooning over Daniel Henney from the moment he walked on to the set, so I expect he’ll be safe for a while longer.
The hunt for the gold is also getting more intense as both Ji Woo (Rain) and Nakamura (Sung Dong Il) access the database of photographs from the US investigation into the death of the parents of Jin Yi (Na-yeong Lee) to find the bank note. The key is evidently the serial number which is a longitude/latitude. But which way round is it? Ji Woo takes it the way it’s written but, to offer some protection to Nakamura, he arranges a metting with Detective Do Soo (Jeong-jin Lee) and explains some of what’s happening. While advising the bad professor Hwang Mi Jin (Yoon Son Ha), Nakamura gets the location right. This means Nakamura leads the crew of villains to the gold (there’s only a few bars but, perhaps at today’s prices, that’s going to show enough profit for all this effort). Fortunately, for him, Do Soo and his police buddies jump out from behind the trees and arrest the villains. This is a good moment for Ji Woo and Jin Yi to run into the clearing as well. As you can imagine, everything gets intense. Ji Woo runs away (what else), Jin Yi gets put behind bars and, later on, the bad professor gets shot. Shame about that. I was enjoying Yoon Son Ha’s performance, hamming up the femme fatale professor. Nakamura is interviewed and released.
Now the extent of the police involvement in the greater conspiracy is revealed. The gold is spirited out of the police station and ends up in the boot of a car collected by our new hitman enforcer, working for General Wei. Do Soo is fired from the force and may be about to team up with Ji Woo, and because none of this gold discovery ever happened, Jin Yi is released. Bad guys close in on her as she walks away from the police compound but, loyal to a fault, Ji Woo beats them to a pulp using a tyre iron — obviously this is not a time for subtlety. Thinking Do Soo is now on their side, Ji Woo arranges a meeting with him but, on his way there, there’s a telephone call from the police putting poison into the water. Uncertain whether Ji Woo really is a murderer, they now meet on the roof of a tall building and square off against each other. Well, that meeting on the roof turns out to be another damp squib. These guys need each other if they are to save the world, or at least Korea, from domination by the arch villain.
Thanks to Kai, we now have a better picture of what’s going on. See, it always comes down to Daniel Henney to do the important talking bits (even if he’s still talking in English while the other man in the room talks only in Korean). The master plan calls for son as puppet to be elected President and then General Wei will farm out vast profit-making ventures to willing minions like Kai — he’s down to build a major coastal resort on government land. The reason why the gold is so important is because, if the story of how the whole load came to be stolen was to become public before number one son becomes president, the adverse publicity for the family will cause them to lose all. In fact, Jin Yi and Ji Woo have been chasing only a tiny portion of the whole load of gold that was walked out of the danger zone by “loyal troops” during the Korean war. Except, Jin Yi’s grandfather was less than loyal and buried the contents of the knapsack on his back (Val-de-ri as he said when he later asked the General for money to keep quiet). Well, that explains why the entire family was massacred and it also explains why no-one cared whether Jin Yi was killed before the gold was found. The gold has to stay hidden or disappear if presidential ambitions are not to be thwarted. So, Jin Yi and Ji Woo analyse the situation and decide General Wei will “dispose” of the gold using aqua regis or royal water. A quick database search shows the general owns a chemical factory, so they stake it out and then follow the delivery truck.
In the Hotel Seoul, Sophie’s calm is disturbed by the arrival of the new hitman. She manages to telephone Ji Woo and talk the hitman through the essentials of the plot. So, Ji Woo sends Do Soo to save the gold, while he and Jin Yi go to save Kai — incidentally, Do Soo has come very close to telling Detective Yoon So-ran (Yun Jin-seo) that she’s special to him. When all interested parties arrive in the hotel room, there’s a genuine laugh-out-loud moment of pure farce. Kai is injected with poison (possibly the same rattlesnake venom used earlier by the bad professor) and falls into Sophie’s arms. Jin Yi overcomes her prejudices, binds his arm with a tourniquet and sucks out the poison like he’d been bit by a rattler. Sophie is properly grateful. In another part of the room, Ji Woo gets beaten to the ground by the hitman, but he runs off when Jin Yi sets off the fire alarm. I haven’t laughed so much for weeks. Hopefully, Daniel Henney will now see his future with Sophie and both will come back from the dark side. Rain and Na-yeong Lee look set fair. All we need now is for Do Soo to make a decisive move.
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So now Ji Woo (Rain) gets us over to China and, using Jin Yi (Na-yeong Lee) as a bait, brings many of the bad guys out of the woodwork. Yet, at what cost? If the client no longer trusts him, what progress can he make? Although Kai (Daniel Henney) may be no more trustworthy, he’s less pervy and more restrained. Have you noticed how Rain takes every opportunity to try planting a kiss on the reluctant client or, when a taxi veers violently around a corner, seizes the girl in a protective embrace? His character is genuinely sexist in every bone of his body. I’m completely baffled as to why he should have decided to play someone so unlikeable. Surely his fans cannot be pleased to see him acting as such a relentlessly unpleasant person. I don’t care anything that Rain can fight or, better still, run away. As this character, he doesn’t deserve to succeed. Or, if he succeeds, he certainly doesn’t deserve any loyalty from staff, previous associates or clients.
The truth now comes out into the open as it’s admitted Daniel Henney knew General Wei (Ti Lung) has been behind some or all of this, having killed the girl’s parents. As a loyal dog, Daniel Henney is told to bring Jin Yi to Macao. So now he has to choose whether to stay loyal to the girl or give her (and the bank note) up.
Jin Yi now realises the stupidity behind all the attempts to kill her. If the baddies think she has this bank note, they should ask her for it before trying to kill her. Sadly, the writers’ forgot to include this in their “how to be a villain handbook”. A flashback shows her picking up this bank note from the mortuary when taking the personal effects following the deaths of her parents in the US. Then, because no-one can think of anything better to do, we have more silly fights and chases to pad out the time.
I’m impressed I finally managed to work out they want the bank note. I still don’t really know who “they” are nor why they want this bank note. It’s apparently something to do with missing gold which the bad professor knows all about. But despite this fog of uncertainty, I feel I’m making progress.
Detective Do Soo (Jeong-jin Lee) giving life-saving mouth-to-mouth to Detective Yoon So-ran (Yun Jin-seo), his female junior, is appreciated by her and noticed approvingly by their colleagues. Perhaps she should invite him round to meet her parents before he changes his mind.
As in all the best television shows made for the international market, we now move with the usual dramatic speed to picturesque Macau where all the more photogenic tourist attractions can be shown off to the best advantage as General Wei proves to Ji Woo that he’s one of, if not the main, enemy. Kai (sorry Daniel Henney) gets to do what he does best which is to seduce the girl, and after another silly fight, our hero is finally captured by Do Soo. At least Rain won’t be able to run away for at least half an episode. One thing which I find consistently annoying is the artificiality of all this chasing and fighting. It brings everything else to a halt around it while everything is staged. For example, in a major Macau hotel complex, Do Soo and Ji Woo fight in front of guests and then drive everyone away from the pool area, but hotel security never puts in an appearance and the local police are not called. Remember, Do Soo is not a police officer entitled to operate in Macau. Having ended with a soaking in the swimming pool, the perfectly groomed, but now handcuffed policeman and prisoner, walk without attracting attention in front of the hotel as Kai and Jin Yi head for their car and drive away. Fortunately, in a later episode, this is corrected with our hero clubbed to the ground and blood streams down his face and neck from the wounds. For once, there are consequences to all these blows.
After an exchange of information and the introduction of evidence designed to frame our hero, things are looking bad for Ji Woo. Do Soo should be feeling more pleased but there’s something niggling at him. Anyway, because this is a plot written for the lowest common denominator audience, Ji Woo writes a summary of the case so far on his cell wall and then escapes. Naturally, our hero wants the detective to do some of the investigative work for him. Soon he has tracked down his client who has reconfirmed her relationship with Kai. There’s a moment or two of physical confrontation — Daniel Henney actually manages to do something more than stand around in his statuesque style and, in that minute, exerts himself in a fight. This would be good except he’s weighed down by guilt and ends up on the floor.
Our supposed hero Rain and Na-yeong Lee now sit close to each other in a car, watching to see what happens when Kai wakes up. For once, there’s no attempt from Rain to paw the girl. After a few minutes. Ji Woo’s predictions are proved correct as villains descend on their location. Kai’s transition to the Dark Side looks certain. They both spend the night reflecting on progress to date and then follow Kai to a meeting with General Wei. After an exchange of threats where, for once, you actually have the sense of real screen presence from Daniel Henney, our girl makes the mistake of stepping out of hiding to confront him. After a short and ruthless fight, all three principals are in the hands of General Wei. Back at the police station, Do Soo and his loyal side kick are going to be framed for helping our hero escape. This is motivating them to get to the bottom of what’s happening. I could mention the various subplots based at Ji Woo’s office and the activities of Nakamura (Seong Dong-il) but they are so painful, I prefer to allow them to fester quietly out of sight.
We now get into the aftermath of the capture. Ji Woo, Jin Yi and a turncoat associate investigator (Gong Hyeong Jin) sometimes employed by Ji Woo are tied to chairs. For fun, our mad (and bad) professor — an underling of General Wei — has a civilised thug inject rattlesnake venom into the third wheel for the other two to watch. We’re all supposed to think this execution is deeply upsetting. Rain sheds a tear, anyway. Jin Yi is next but, just as the thug is about to use the hypodermic, Do Soo and girlfriend detective turn up outside and start battering on the door. Let no-one say Ji Woo lacked foresight in leaving this dedicated pair of officers a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. While the professor tries to get rid of our amorous detectives, Ji Woo and Jin Yi untie each other and, despite having been tied unmoving to chairs for hours (which usually paralyses the body due to restricted flow of blood) they escape with the usual exchange of blows followed by a chase through the streets. Fortunately, Do Soo is fixated by his pasta and his girlfriend (of course) and so fails to spot the various groups run toward and then past the restaurant. Such is the power of love when faced by pasta. This last episode has been a bad one for Daniel Henney lovers. He’s been unconscious in bed recovering from concussion. He should talk firmly with his agent to ensure more screen time.
And let’s not forget the first death of the show. He may only have been a minor associate of the great detective, but Gong Hyeong Jin didn’t really deserve to die. Indeed, when you consider all the various attempted killings so far, with people missing death by guns, swords and motor cars, it seems singularly unfair someone should hold this ineffective guy down and cold-bloodedly poison him. It takes all the fun out of the show, really.
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Let’s say a television company recruits you to a team. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put together a vehicle in which established stars can be shown off to their best advantage. You immediately understand the amazing responsibility handed to you. If the team succeeds, the television company will have a major commercial blockbuster on its hands. This program will generate fabulous audience numbers which, in turn, will drive advertising rates sky high, lead to spin off sales of the official sound track and possibly, even, sell a fashion line based on the clothes worn on screen. So you look at the names of the stars contracted to appear. The first challenge is therefore clear. How do you balance out each star’s virtues, give each a fair amount of screen time, and avoid having them do anything that would be bad for their image? Ah, yes, that intangible problem of image. Can one of your major stars be given the role of the “villain” (using the term to include both male and female villains)? This can be very problematic.
Suppose one of your stars has a squeaky-clean image with millions of doting fans praying for the improbable consummation of their heart’s desires. This star may project the idea he or she is “innocent” but available to the “right” partner. It would therefore be difficult for this star to play the role of an assassin who lures targets to bed and makes each kill by strangling the semi-naked victims with a silken garrote. Appearing even vaguely promiscuous or unfaithful or deceitful or. . . Well, you see the problem. If all your stars are expected to conform to their images, what kind of plot can you formulate that will allow them to interact with each other in a way their respective fan groups will accept? Remember, just having your stars stand or sit gets boring after a while. They must actually do things of interest and go places that are more than just a pretty view.
Welcome to The Fugitive: Plan B or Domangja Plan B, written by Cheon Sung-il and directed by Kwak Jung-hwan. This twenty episode serial moves between Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines, and features a multinational cast of actors. From Korea, we have Rain (Ji Woo), Jeong-jin Lee (Do Soo), Na-yeong Lee (Jin Yi), Yun Jin-seo (Detective Yoon So-ran), and Yoon Son-ha (Hwang Mi-jin). Daniel Henney (Kai) is a kind of international nomad, adding Hong Kong’s Ti Lung (General Wei — old-school bad guy), China’s Josie Ho (Hwa-i), and Japanese actors Naoto Takenaka (Hiroki) and Uehara Takako (Keiko) the Japanese pop-star love interest for Rain to dally with. So Rain and Daniel Henney would be considered heart throbs. Rain seems mildly famous because he sings, dances about a bit and appears in dead-in-the-water Hollywood blockbusters like Speed Racer. After completing The Fugitive: Plan B and working on a film, Flight: Close to the Sun, he’s disappeared into the Korean army to do his national service. This is not before he and Lee Na-young sued the production company. Mysteriously, it seems this company neglected to pay its stars as it shot the series.
Daniel Henney is there because of his good looks with and without his shirt on, and his ability to appear in foreign language films speaking English without looking a complete idiot. Giving more depth to the cast are Na-yeong Lee who’s more talented as an actress, having appeared in a variety of roles from gooey romantic to a deadly warrior, and Jeong-jin Lee who has also contrived to play most types. Completing the line-up is Yun Jin-seo (Detective Yoon So-ran), albeit she’s somewhat underused. In her life outside this series, she acts, writes and sings.
OK, so here goes on the plot so far. Jin Yi kind of hires Ji Woo to find someone called Melchidec. I say “kind of” because she doesn’t pay him and money only passes to Ji Woo courtesy of Kai in episode 4. That means Ji Woo is running around out of the kindness of his heart, trusting Jin Yi to pay at some point. I say running around because starting in Korea, we’re quickly whisked off to Japan where we meet Seong Dong-il (Nakamura Hwang) as a lightweight private detective who will always follow the money, and the delightfully villainous Naoto Takenaka as Hiroki, Keiko’s father.
There are numerous sequences where people fight, run after each other, and drive/ride a variety of vehicles and bicycles dangerously. It’s all done in a highly stylised homage to spy dramas or generic thrillers. With all the most overused camera angles and cutting tricks employed, everything possible is done to draw out these sequences. They pad out the extraordinarily thin plot (so far). In fact, I would be lying if I said I had a clear idea of what’s actually happening and who’s allied with whom. All I can say with any degree of certainty is that whoever the bad guys are, they are trying to kill Jin Yi. Rain’s performance is immensely annoying as he pouts and postures his way through the series but, so far, he seems to be one of the good guys — even though he’s not averse to cheating supposed colleagues and stealing stuff when it suits him. Then we have the clichéd team of cops led by Do Soo, the one obsessed with idea Rain is a dangerous criminal, who doesn’t notice the love in the eyes of his subordinate, Yoon So-ran, and Daniel Henney who stands and sits beautifully, looking darkly handsome and apparently helping Jin Yi while failing to get her into bed.
Remarkably, for all this is a complete farrago of rubbish, the first four episodes took off in Korea with unusually high scores for viewership turned in by Nielsen. Obviously, my inability to turn off my brain when seeing star power on screen is preventing me from seeing anything good. Although, cheating to look what happened to the numbers later on in the run, it seems the viewers also lost a little patience.
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