GREATEST KNIFE FIGHT EVER. Period...
Actually, that probably doesn't constitute as a very thorough review for a film you probably haven't even heard of yet. The Man From No Where is the film that came from nowhere. It's experiences like this that remind me of the true joys of attending film festivals, sifting through so much over hyped mediocrity only to be taken completely off guard with hidden gems like this that seem to have received no previous press.
This was added to The Philadelphia Film Festival's line up only a few days ago. It was added so late that even freshly printed schedules released mid fest didn't list it. Luckily, a friend randomly stumbled into this during a previous screening and was blown away. I was urged to skip any previously made plans and do everything I could to make its final screening last night. I went into this knowing nothing, and holy shit, am I glad I took that advice. Never underestimate the simple power of word of mouth.
The Man From No Where is the type of slick, stylish, and gut wrenchingly visceral thriller that will remind you why Korea was kicking so much ass on the festival scene a few years ago.
It should be pointed out; there isn't a single original idea in the entire film. This is essentially a grab bag combination of The Professional, Taken, Man on Fire, The Bourne Identity, The Chaser, and A Bittersweet Life. But what the film does, it does so exceptionally well that you won't care that you've already seen this story a hundred times before.
Bin Won, the mentally handicapped son from Mother, plays Tae- Sik Cha, a pawnshop owner with a shady and mysterious past. He's also the ultimate badass. He slowly develops an odd friendship with a kleptomaniac young girl. She's the daughter to a junkie mother and comes by the pawnshop everyday, desperate for company and attention.
Tae- Sik Cha plays along and humors this sad and lonely child, but he never allows himself to get too close. But he finds his past catching up to him when the young girl's mother rips off a pound of pure heroin from some of Seoul's most dangerous gangsters. The mother is tortured and murdered while the girl is taken hostage and eventually sold to organ harvesters.
Tae-Sik is inadvertently caught up in the drama. He's framed for the mother's brutal murder and a seperate drug bust. He evades the police and sets route to rescue the girl and track down the men who wronged him. His past is revealed and as it would turn out, Tae- Sik is a lethal killer and far more dangerous than any number of common hoods and thugs.
Much like Taken, the set up is all pretty routine stuff. Apart from a former Viet Kong henchmen, the villains are generally cartoonish and over the top. But the film succeeds in developing the audience's blood lust. Again, like Taken, you'll be rooting for Tae-Sik Cha to tear shit up and he doesn't disappoint. But unlike Taken, this film doesn't pull its punches.
The entire cast give surprisingly strong performances, and while much of the film is typical Korean melodrama, it avoids being saccharine or tedious. The pacing is air tight as well. This was my first film in the entire festival witout any watch checks.
Director Jeong- Beom Lee does a fine job with keeping the more cliché elements of the story engaging enough so that there's an emotional payoff to the action. And boy is the payoff worth it. Did I mention this has THE BEST KNIFE FIGHT EVER? The action comes fast and hard, and while the editing is pretty quick, we can follow the movements. For once, the audience can actually savor and enjoy the masterful choreography without distracting camerawork, intentionally shaky images, or slow motion.
Ultimately, this is pretty shallow revenge thriller fare but the stunning cinematography, brutal fight choreography, and an intense soundtrack makes The No Man From No Where (also titled This Man in some areas) a must see film for action fans and fans of Korean cinema. Think of it as high end cinematic junk food, really, really, tasty, expensive, cinematic junk food. If you need any further indication for my love of this film, I've written and posted this review within two hours after the screening finished. Seek this one out!
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