Tae-shik (Bin Won) lives a pretty lonely life eeking out a humble existence as a pawnshop owner, his only friend a young girl named So-mi (Sae-ron Kim), who visits him from time to time.
Whilst Tae-shik’s ’emo’ haircut is far too heavy handed a signifier of his angst and downbeat nature there are a number of scenes in the early stages of The Man From Nowhere in which there is a palpable sense of ennui that Bin Won manages to convey effortlessly through his physical performance. The difficulty he has in connecting with other people also comes across well in his interactions with the young girl who, clearly desperate for a father figure, reaches out to this lonely guy.
When So-mi is kidnapped though Tae-shik is forced to break out of his hermetic life, pursuing the men who have taken her with unrelenting fervour. He does this through a mixture of sleuthing and general badassery. You see Tae-shik used to be a shadowy special agent and he quickly puts the skills left over from his previous life to good use in his hunt to find So-mi (pausing briefly to sort his haircut out).
Bin Won is reasonably well cast in the central role and it is quite a revelation to see him in a role so wildly different to his turn in Bong Joon-ho’s Mother. Whilst many of the more emotional beats in the film fall into the area of excessive melodrama – the final moments are almost unforgivably over the top – Bin Won manages to make them feel less ludicrous than they should and the on screen chemistry between the young So-mi and her paternal surrogate Tae-shik is highly effective, ensuring the relationship never feels too forced or unrealistic. Sae-ron Kim is also adorable in the role of So-mi and her performance thankfully never slips into that irritatingly cute kid area that so many child actors do.
Although Bin Won is clearly a competent actor, as a physical performer he is a little lacking and there are times when the framing and editing appears to be somewhat dictated by the need to cover this. This is not too distracting though and ultimately this is an action thriller in which the action scenes are part of the whole rather than the core of the film. Some action set pieces are excellent though, a knife fight towards the end being particularly noteworthy if only for the visceral impact it has.
The knife sequence aside most of the action is relatively generic, as are the characters and the plotting, but The Man From Nowhere is relatively solid throughout and despite its general lack of originality it is an entertaining and gripping film with assured direction and excellent central performances.
The UK DVD from eOne comes to us a little late in the day with the US and Korean Blu-rays and DVDs already widely available. The UK disc also comes without any extras at all. None. So, a standard definition transfer, albeit a reasonably decent one, and no extras? This does not make for a particularly strong release. It is one that is sadly in keeping with the treatment that a number of Asian films receive in the UK though, a long delay before we finally get a shoddy release, only on DVD and with scarce to no extras. Very disappointing.
The Man From Nowhere is available to buy or rent on DVD from the 11th of April.
Film – [Rating:3/5]
DVD – [Rating:1/5]