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Review The Man from Nowhere a.k.a. Ajeossi (2010): Korean Man on Fire!

genre: crime, action, drama, thriller

The first time when I watched Man from Nowhere I was really impressed. I was convinced it was one of the best action films ever made. Now upon a second viewing I don't think the same.

As an action film it offers just enough action but it's not as plentiful or intense as I remember. Even compared to Leon, Taken and Man on Fire it's a little tame in comparison. Sure the film is pretty gritty and brutal when depicting the evil actions of the criminals. And some of the fights are bloody. But they are over before you know it and there is too much distraction in between the action scenes.

Perhaps it's a little unfair for me to be so harsh since back in 2010 this easily was an impressive film. More so because it combined elements of Man on Fire, Leon and Taken. And back then every film that was similar to those was something I would not get tired off. I also remember that the first time I watched it most events were surprising to me since I knew nothing of the film. And I guess I got all swept up into the dramatic tale of the silent stranger trying to rescue the only friend he has, the young girl named So-mi. This must be THE answer to why so many people liked this film so much. Problem is that the second time viewing has pointed out issues you hardly will notice the first time. Character development is minimal. Even when they take their time to establish the friendship it's not as deep or emotional as it could have been. The little girl is adorable and basically a very tragic figure since she has no one who really looks out for her. Her mother is a low life junkie who only cares for herself and views her daughter as garbage. The villains are super evil and ruthless. Only Thanayong Wongtrakul as pne of the henchmen has some depth to him as he is able to show some kindness. I wished they had done more with this character. 

The pacing also is quite slow. Don't get me wrong a lot is happening. Only most of the events are suggested and implied and not shown. It's apparent they chose this route to maintain the mystery surrounding the main character Tae-sik which is very effective the first time but the second time it only gets in the way of your enjoyment. In hindsight I think if the film had been twenty to thirty minutes shorter the film would have been stronger and better. There really is no good reason for this film to last two hours.

Overall the viewing experience was a little disappointing. For some reason I rembered it to be more intense and action packed. Still for people who haven't seen this one before it will offer a solid watch. Director Lee Jeong-beom also brought us No Tears for the Dead (2014) which also suffers from weak and simple storytelling but action wise it's superior to The Man from Nowhere.

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