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Monday, January 2, 2017

AJEOSSI / THE MAN FROM NOWHERE (2010)

(Deep breath, please.) Outside a Korean nightclub, police are prepping for a major drug ring bust. But before they can give the green light and start making arrests, the goods are stolen by a club dancer and taken to her apartment in a downscale Seoul neighborhood. That’s where her lonely little girl is skipping school and trying to make friends with the secretive young pawnbroker who works & lives in her building. But she’d better hurry, the rest of those foiled villains are in hot pursuit, desperate to retrieve the sample bar of high-grade heroin. An initial raid at the pawnshop turns deadly . . . for the gangsters. They haven’t a chance against his martial arts skills. So the thugs go for a soft target, kidnaping Mother & Child before letting the pawnshop guy know he can get them back by delivering a message to a second gang, a Japanese outfit trying to weasel in on the deal. It’s a set-up, but while the gangs and police are hunting Mr. Pawnshop down (just who is this guy?!!), it’s revealed that drugs aren’t the only commodity in play. There’s also a nice bit of business going on in live human organ extraction for transplants, with premium prices on little girl offal. Yikes! (Exhale.) Preposterous doings, no doubt; but also, in the hands of writer/director Jeong-beom Lee, preposterously entertaining. Only the second of his three films, he boasts a natural kinetic technique with a clean narrative line that movies with plots half as complicated can’t muster; joined to a tremendous cast of memorably shady creeps, an honorable bad guy for the big-thrill climatic knife fight; reasonable props for hard-working cops; and in Bin Won, our stoic/laconic pawnbroker with a ‘Special Ops’ past, a tragic personal history and alarming good looks to go with the chiseled abs, a natural screen idol. (Why he dropped out of the acting game after this film is the real mystery.) Turn off the right side of your brain and enjoy. (Family Friendly, but not for the kiddies.)

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