Fantastic Fest 2010: The Man From Nowhere.
On the surface The Man From Nowhere is a pretty generic Asian action drama, reminding me somewhat of the Heroic Bloodshed films from HK in the 90's but what saves it from dropping from your thoughts right after you've done watching it is the amount of brutal and well executed violence it contains in its rather simple story.
Pretty boy heartthrob Won Bin, here trying to portray angst and a troubled soul by combing his hair over one eye and staring blankly at people, is a mysterious loner that manages a pawn shop in a run down apartment building. He reluctantly befriends a small girl who is a regular at the shop, pawning her own things for money for food for herself and her heroin addicted stripper mom. He keeps his distance though, not allowing her, or anybody else for that matter, to get too close to him.
The little girl's mother makes a wrong move one day by stealing a shipment of heroin from a particularly ruthless group of gangers and ends up getting herself and the little girl kidnapped. From then on the mysterious stranger gets involved and by swiftly and brutally disposing of henchmen to try to get them back we slowly find out who he is and why he's so good at slicing faces and breaking bones. And with the police and and an army of bad guys after him, time is running out for him and the little girl.
Director Lee Jung-beom throws in everything in to the story, drugs, prostitution, top secret government information, illegal child labor, organ harvesting and human trafficking along with spectacular scenes of proper ass kicking and the usual slapstick comedy that's so prominent in Asian films, no matter what genre.
It works most of the time, the story gets a little convoluted at times and some of the action scene suffer from over editing but overall it's a solid piece of action cinema.
The comedy is sparse but works and especially near the end it drops in to hard core melodrama with rousing strings and tears.
Won Bin, when not looking all emo is a competent action star, knifing dudes repeatedly in the neck or blowing their brains out. I'm pretty sure in his home land fans of his were shocked to see him pull some of the stuff he does in this film, but he does get his shirt off in one scene to appease the female crowd...and Todd.
If you are a fan of Asian action cinema The Man From Nowhere doesn't really offer anything terribly original but it takes a tried and true formula and keeps it fun, fast and furious.