The Man From Nowhere DVD review
Sombre South Korean action flick The Man From Nowhere arrives on DVD, but does it deliver on the cover’s promise? Here’s Joe’s review…
The DVD cover of The Man From Nowhere is a little misleading. If I were a nit-picky film nerd, I might be inclined to note that at no point does our protagonist Tae-Sik Cha (Bin Won) wield two handguns at once. Only a single hand-cannon at a time for this wandering death-dealer. But of course, I wouldn’t be so petty.
More legitimately, the image of a clipped-haired gentleman firing into the middle distance, and the big fat 18 rating on the front of the box, might lead you to believe this is an all-out action extravaganza. It has its show-stopping moments, but The Man From Nowhere is as much about the horrors of gangsterism and psychological damage as it is kicking baddies in the face.
The first half in particular is a sombre affair, lit in all manner of Michael Mann inspired blues. Cha doesn’t even sport the same hairdo as that handsome hero on the cover. The scene in which he shaves off his shaggy bulbous mop is symbolic.
By dint of his own compassion and the evil of others, he is forced to return to the life of killing he had abandoned. That moment of acceptance begins the final third, which contains as much martial arts and bullet casings as you could hope for. It’s here too that we find the gore, but not an excess of it. The real reason for the 18 rating is the subject matter.
So-Mi Jeong (Sae-ron Kim) is a little girl who lives across the hall from Cha. Neglected by her junkie mother she attaches herself to the morose recluse as the only sympathetic adult in her life. Cha has shades of Jason Bourne about him. Sombre with a shadowy past, as well as unexpectedly awesome at beating the living nonsense out of people. When So-Mi becomes trapped in the world of forced child-labour and organ harvesting, Cha sets out on a bloody mission to free his only friend.
The many threads that make up this story sound more exciting on paper than they appear in the film. They could have lived up to billing, but almost every aspect feels lacklustre where it could have been thrilling. The vengeful loner, the evil drug dealers, and the hard-bitten cops still make for an intriguing cocktail, but never combine to create something vital.
Scenes of torture and child-operated drug dens are a little less harrowing than they ought to be. This has a lot to do with the movie’s tone. Although it tackles potentially shocking topics, at its heart The Man From Nowhere still a straightforward action movie.
In the first half, before the karate kicks begin, the film has a genuine shot at being hard-hitting. 10-year-old Sae-ron Kim is impressively tragic and although Bin Won’s primary task is to look emotionless, he does just that. But when the pace starts to increase, Tae-Sik Cha becomes more and more the hard-as-nails action hero that cover image promises.
Not that the action sequences are in any way poor. Cha stabs, shoots, and strikes with a certain grace, and the camera is not so frenetic that his finesse is lost in the edit. Still, it’s hardly jaw-dropping stuff. There’s a listless efficiency to the fighting that evokes workmanlike choreography rather than a cold-blooded killer.
That sentiment rings true for the every aspect of The Man From Nowhere. The actors never excel, but never flounder. The actions sequences are well shot and effectively delivered, but will do nothing to excite an Asian cinema aficionado.
Most disappointingly, the story and its setting never deliver on the potential for a gripping tale. All these elements come together to make a film that will keep you watching until the end, but unlikely to have you reminiscing far beyond the closing credits.
There are no extras of any kind to be found anywhere on this disc. Not even a really tiny one.
The Man From Nowhere is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.