Never mess with a guy who lives for today. Especially, if he’s chosen to live a quiet, detached life; far from society. If you mess with him, all you get is pain. And death.
One of the best movies of 2010-11, The Man From Nowhere, definitely is a must watch. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. South Korea’s highest grosser for 2010 and winner of 20+ National, International and Asian awards – this is a completely mind-blowing experience. A movie that will blow you away! It is definitely not a Takeshi Kitano Sonatine where neo-realism is stripped naked to its barest form just leaving the world as it is; or rhythmic revenge drama as in ‘A Bittersweet Life‘. The Man From Nowhere offers a mixture of high-intensity drama, jaw-dropping fight scenes, and portrays the wicked, sad and twisted world of drug-trafficking and organ-smuggling that we live in.
Starring Won Bin, The Man From Nowhere is a simple story of Cha Tae-sik (played by Won Bin) – a pawn broker leading a simple, detached and desolate life in a poor neighborhood. He doesn’t speak to anyone and everyone calls him the ‘Pawnshop Ghost‘. His only friend is a girl, So-mi (played by 11-year old, Sae-ron Kim) – who likes him very much. So-mi’s mum is a drug-mule and heroin addict and they live in extreme poverty. So-mi once steals a school bag from a kid – and getting caught by the police, when So-mi, points Tae-sik out and tells – “He’s my dad”. Tae-sik walks away, leaving her alone. Later when he meets So-mi, she breaks down saying: “Mister? I embarrass you too, right? That’s why you ignored me? It’s okay. My teacher and all the kids do that too. Mom said that if I get lost, I should forget our address and phone number. She gets drunk and says we should die. Even though that pig called me a bum… you’re meaner. But I don’t hate you. Because if I do, I won’t have anyone I like. Thinking about it hurts me here. So I won’t hate you“.
This is the beginning of a friendship between Tae-sik and So-mi, which propels the movie forward.
The movie moves slowly – like poetry in the first half. Characterization is superb. Dialogues are excellent. Slowly it grows serious – shows us glimpses of the evils of modern society – drugs, drug mules, ants (kids used as drug mules), illegal organ-smugglers and so on.
So-mi’s mum gets caught in some drug business and gets murdered. And all her organs taken out. So-mi gets kidnapped as well. The drug and organ-traffickers just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – and Tae-sik gets involved. From hereon, we see the other side, and the violent past of Tae-sik. After he escapes from a police station, nearly seriously injuring all the policemen inside, the police does a background check on him. Finds, from 1996-2008, all data about his profile is locked with code 011. They request for data unlocking from the US and receives it.
What they come across amazes them. Tae-sik was a special operations operative – belonging to the elite intelligence team working for insurgency/counter-intelligence/cross-border high-profile assassinations related operations for the US & South Korean Govts. Winner of multiple awards and commendations, he was a trained killer – trained in lethal combat, close-range combat, tactics, weapons, knife-fighting and bare hands. When the National Security agencies enter the picture to take over the case (since it involves one of their former agents), they shed light on his past which is in a locked file. During one of his operations, Tae-sik’s pregnant wife gets killed, and he retires permanently, unable to overcome the shock. He is a man from nowhere, and nowhere to go.
Meanwhile, Tae-sik continues to search for his only friend, So-mi. This leads to direct confrontation with all three – drug-mafia, organ-traffickers and the police. We see an angel in vengeance wrapped in the cloak of death – without remorse.
One of the most memorable set of dialogues from this movie is:
Tae-sik: You live only for tomorrow.
Tae-sik: The ones that live for tomorrow, get fucked by the ones living for today.
Guy: What are you babbling about?
Tae-sik: I only live for today. I’ll show you just how fucked up that can be.
And, before the final fights…
Tae-sik: How many cavities do you have?
Drug lord: What?
Tae-sik: I run a pawnshop. I take gold teeth. I’ll keep the gold teeth. And I’ll chew up everything else!
The fight sequences will blow you away. Never seen such stylish knife work. At the very end, there’s a 3-fight-scene back-to-back. Multiple rounds gun-fight, then, a one versus many knife work. And finale – Tae-sik against a hired killer. All three are choreographed to perfection. The special attraction of the movie is the final knife battle. It is a straight knife Versus Karambit knife fight (which according to critics is probably the finest knife-fight recorded in recent times). Deadly. Violent. Ruthless.
Tae-sik kills everyone – wipes out both the gangs. He is reunited with So-mi, and as the police waits to arrest him, he does a beautiful thing. He apologizes to her for not being her ‘Dad’, when she had mentioned at the very beginning of the movie. Buys her books, pencils and crayons for school. And breaks down holding her tightly. You can’t stop tears rolling down your eyes as well.
WARNING: The movie is not for the faint-hearted. Has lots of graphic violence, drug abuse, and some action with streams of bloodbath – that is not recommended for kids and heart patients.
- 2010: (19th) Buil Film Awards – October 8
- Best Music: Shim Hyun-jung
- Special Award (Buil Independence Judge): The Man from Nowhere
- 2010 (19th) Philadelphia Film Festival – October 14–24
- “Graveyard Shift Special Mention”: The Man from Nowhere
- 2010: (47th) Grand Bell Awards – October 29
- 2010: (8th) Korea Film Awards – November 18
- 2010: (31st) Blue Dragon Film Awards – November 26
- Technical Award: Park Jung-ryul (for action scenes)
- Popularity Award: Won Bin
- Box Office Award: The Man from Nowhere
- 2010: (2nd) Korean Wave Industry Awards – December 4
- Popular Culture Award (Film section): The Man from Nowhere
- 2010: (6th) University Film Festival of Korea – December 13
- Best Director: Lee Jeong-beom
- Best Actor: Won Bin
- Best Cinematography: Lee Tae-yoon
- Best Music: Shim Hyun-jung
- 2010: (13th) Director’s Cut Awards (Korea) – December 17
- Best Production: Opus Pictures (Lee Tae-heon) The Man from Nowhere
- 2010: (11th) National Assembly Society of Popular Culture & Media Awards (Korea) – December 20
- Movie of the Year: The Man from Nowhere
- 2011: (2nd) Film Journalists Association Annual Film Awards (Korea) – January 27
- Best Actor: Won Bin
- 2011: (8th) MaxMovie Awards (Korea) – February 1
- 2011: (3rd) Beaune International Thriller Film Festival – March 30 – April 3
- Grand Prize: The Man from Nowhere
- 2011: (47th) PaekSang Arts Awards – May 26
- Best Movie: The Man from Nowhere
- 2011: (33rd) Golden Cinematography Awards – September 1
- Gold Medal Cinematography: Lee Tae-yoon
- 2010 (6th) Fantastic Fest – September 23–30, 2010 – *US Premiere
- 2010 (29th) Vancouver International Film Festival – Sept. 30 – Oct. 15, 2010 – Dragons and Tigers *Canadian Premiere
- 2010 (15th) Pusan International Film Festival – October 7–15, 2010 – Korean Cinema Today: Panorama
- 2010 (30th) Hawaii International Film Festival – October 14–24, 2010 – Spotlight on Korea *Hawaii Premiere
- 2010 (19th) Philadelphia Film Festival – October 14–24, 2010 – The Graveyard Shift
- 2010 (5th) London Korean Film Festival – November 5–23, 2010 – Opening Gala Film
- 2011 (22nd) Palm Springs International Film Festival – January 6–17, 2011 – World Cinema Now
- 2011 (29th) San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival – March 10–20, 2011 – Special Presentation at Castro Theatre
- 2011 (35th) Hong Kong International Film Festival – March 20 – April 5, 2011 – Gala Presentation
- 2011 (35th) Cleveland International Film Festival – March 24 – April 3, 2011 – Pacific Pearls
- 2011 (3rd) Beaune International Thriller Film Festival – March 30 – April 3, 2011 – Official Section – Competition
- 2011 (32nd) Valencia Mostra Action and Adventure Film Festival – April 7–14, 2011 – Official Section
- 2011 (25th) The Washington, DC International Film Festival (Filmfest DC) – April 7–17, 2011
- 2011 (3rd) CPH PIX (Copenhagen Film Festival) – April 14 – May 1, 2011 – Asian Connection
- 2011 (13th) Udine Far East Film Festival – April 29 – May 7, 2011 *Italian Premiere
- 2011 (10th) New York Asian Film Festival – July 1–14, 2011 – Sea of Revenge: New Korean Thrillers
- 2011 New Zealand International Film Festival – Jul – Nov, 2011
- 2011 (2nd) Korean Film Festival in Australia – Aug 24-29 & Sep 10-13, 2011
- 2011 (17th) L’Etrange Festival – September 2-11, 2011
*Awards & Festivals data from Wikipedia.
In a nutshell, this movie will make your heart stop in action, and bring tears to your eyes when it finally finishes. A must watch.