Shades of a Masterpiece: The Man From Nowhere

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An action film from South Korean director Lee Jeong-Beom should be watched in one breath. Even though there is an enormous quantity of shooting, guns, bands and blood, it leaves the aftertaste of accomplished story. Thus `The Man From Nowhere` got the top of box offices in South Korea in 2010. It surpassed `Iron Man 2` and `Inception`, the American company Dimension Films bought the film rights, with Shawn Christensen (`Abduction`) as a screenwriter. What were the secrets of success there?

The Man From Nowhere - concept
The Man From Nowhere - concept

Did you watch Man From Nowhere? In a sleepy zone of a small Korean town, Cha Tae Sik lives in isolation from the outside. He is a recluse, owner of a pawnshop in a high-rise building.

In the flat next door lives a mother, who is a dancer in a nightclub and her little daughter nicknamed ‘rubbish can’.

The girl skips school, hanging around the streets and steals food all day long.

Once her mother intervenes in a drug scam of a local mafia, the bandits break into their flat, then kidnap the girl, brutally killing the mother.

Cha Tae Sik becomes an unwitting participant in a dirty business. He has no way back – they threaten to kill a little neighbour and a dozen more street children.

The film evokes a storm of emotions. It exposes the subject in layers one by one, which reveals our feelings.

The plot is pretty multifaceted, deep, and in some places philosophical. A classic criminal beginning, it all starts with intrigue and predictable turns of the story, as for an action film.

However, gradually the picture begins to change. By the second half, it finally outreaches the understanding, taking the obvious things into the shadows and highlighting the semantic grain that the creator put into the soil.

Simple, the history of the drug mafia is beginning to acquire such an intensive emotional layer that makes us vulnerable.

The director gradually reveals the edges of the character, as well as the past life of the protagonist.

Very subtly, skilfully and at the same time naturally builds a line of relationship between the `man in black` and the little girl, who, by the will of fate, have to face the dark side of the harsh and dirty world.

The film is a sophisticated mix of warm drama and an incredibly powerful thriller with scenes of gunfights, for an instant, a knife battle that takes your breath away.

The final episode of that same knife fight in terms of skill and rigidity creates the effect of emotional freezing.

The director can prepare us for an emotional explosion, deprived of isolation, behind which is a hurricane of emotions. Here everyone experiences own tragedy.

Without the brilliant actors, this film would certainly not be so strong.

Won Bin in the role of the man in black, transformed from a man with a secret, a load inside his soul, to a strong warrior with a vulnerable side – closeness.

The girl next door, a child performed by actress Kim Se Ron, became the only person who crashed into the protagonist’s life with warm intentions.

Her sincere belief in goodness, including kindness, awakened his body to feelings and emotions, risking his life and fighting for someone else’s child, as for his own.

Director Jeong-Beom Lee doesn’t have many films that have reached the same heights of fame as The Man from Nowhere, but there is a a reason why it performed so well. Make sure to check it out now.

Photo: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney


Haven’t had your fill of South Korean films? Why not check out a new genre here:

K-Horror: The Best Films to Watch From This Unique Genre


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