Having been nominated for and winning numerous awards, The Man From Nowhere (2010, directed by Lee Jeong-beom) is definitely one to see, but not for the reasons you might think. This dark action flick seduces you with its delivery of gritty violence and dynamic action scenes, but at its core this is a story of identity, the meaning in one's life and rekindling the passion for that which we hold dear.
Enter So-min (Kim Sae-rom), an equally lonely young girl desperately seeking out her own sense of worth as she is rendered homeless, loveless and emotionally abandoned by her drug addicted mother. Having no male role models in her life outside her mother's abusive and violent companion, she seeks to take refuge from her bleak childhood reality in the company of this small pawnshop owner.
Having been initially rejected by Tae-sik, So-min delivers a shock to Tae-sik's otherwise unemotional existence by reigniting the passion and love he once directed towards his wife and unborn child. Tae-sik is a man unknowingly in need of what this young girl is asking of him. His tainted violent history and her innocence and tragic presence make a compelling premise for a story about transcendence and hope.
The film then follows Tae-sik as he revengefully seeks to liberate So-min from her mother's murderous kidnappers. Having inadvertently been placed in the middle of a drug war between rival factions, Tae-sik makes use of his deadly training and newly found passion as he attempts to seek revenge on the world that caused him to lose all that he held dear, while saving the young girl who reopened his eyes to new possibilities.
Yes, this is an action movie, and of course there is plenty of bloodshed and well-choreographed action sequences. This, however, is not what stuck with me after the credits had passed. Besides the fact that the majority of fight scenes were entertaining, they do pull you out of the experience at times with the odd drawn-out fight scenes, kitsch sound effects, and cliché action sequences. This, however, did not stop me from investing myself in Tae-sik's journey for hope and his relationship with the young girl who started it all. This is what really makes this film memorable and although his character manages to redefine himself as he undergoes his quest, by the end we are left with more a cathartic message of hope rather than a completely transformed hero.
-Christopher J. Wheeler