Generally speaking when you pick up a foreign film that happened to travel on over to our region of film (by that I mean Region 1 DVD or Region A Blu-ray’s) it’s either a result of an Oscar nomination or because of its overwhelming success in its mother country. With The Man from Nowhere it’s definitely the latter as this really isn’t something that would turn the Academy’s eye—it’s pretty much just a straight up action flick filled with violence. There is an engaging story built underneath it as well of course, but the overlaying blood splatter will likely turn more than a few off.
Tae-shik (Won Bin) is an ex-special agent whose tragic past has made him distance himself from the world. He now lives in solitude and runs a small pawnshop. The only people he now sees are the few pawnshop customers and So-mi (Kim Sae-Ron), the young girl who lives next door. So-mi has also been neglected by the world and as she and Tae-shik begin to spend more time together, the two gradually open themselves to one another and become friends. Then one day, So-mi suddenly disappears. So-mi s mother becomes involved in a major crime causing both her and So-mi to get kidnapped. Tae-shik is drawn back out into the world in a frantic search for So-mi s whereabouts. In order to save So-mi, his one and only friend in this world, Tae-shik makes a certain arrangement with the crime mob. While So-mi is still nowhere to be found, the police begin to chase after Tae-shik. With the police and the underground mob close on his tail, Tae-shik continues his frantic search for So-mi and his hidden past slowly becomes revealed…
I’m not one that is terribly familiar with martial arts cinema or someone who has even watched many of them at all…in fact when thinking of that genre, I can’t really think of any film. Ninja Assassin is as close it gets and that was an American production…more importantly it really wasn’t all that good either. So I’ve no real baseline to compare The Man from Nowhere with, which is both refreshing and a bit awkward as I’ve no idea if this film is even considered “good” by the standards of the genre. I can at least take solace in the fact that this film was #1 for five weeks straight in South Korea; by the time it ended it’s run it’s sold well over six million tickets…which sounds way more impressive than it’s actual gross (around $43 million in US currency), but still impressive nonetheless.
Despite not knowing much of anything about this genre I do at least know that this kind of character and story focus isn’t all that original. Our main character of Tae-shik is a reclusive individual and is unwilling to share his past with others; it’s only when a young child requires his help does he do anything about it. This is kind of reminiscent of the recent The Karate Kid re-make, but really only in that small correlation between our main and child characters. The rest of the film is a great deal more dramatic and gruesome, with the young child’s mother being a strung out drug addict which leads to Tae-shik to go on a hunt for both mother and daughter when they disappear due to some drug lord shenanigans.
I won’t overplay or underplay the story; I’ll just simply say it’s adequate for a film of this nature. It’s a very basic story as far as structures go but it’s also a very solid one; none of it feels forced or out of place. It’s basically the glue holding the action sequences together; as much as you want an action movie that is nothing but guns firing and thrown fists, you really do need some substance to it to keep your interest in the characters rolling and that’s exactly what The Man from Nowhere does. It’s a believable story and that is incredibly important because when the violence starts ramping up begin to realize just how ridiculous it all looks.
The film is very leisurely paced; at two hours it gives you plenty of time to appreciate not only the direction and characters but also its gradual ramping up of the action sequences. If you were to walk in on the last part of the film without having seen the first you might think it was stupidly violent (but still awesome, of course); but if you start from the front and move up it just feels natural. Progressively violent violence is an odd thing to kind of wrap your head around, but in a two hour film it makes perfect and complete sense.
Overall The Man from Nowhere is a Recommended film. I’m not terribly knowledgeable of this genre but at the very least I was thoroughly entertained and engaged for the two hours it ran.
Well Go USA pushes out The Man from Nowhere in a single disc Elite Blu-ray case with a matte-finish slip cover on the outside. Nothing is overly special about this release in terms of presentation aside from the UPC being on the bottom of the package (crazy!) but it’s a very nicely presented package either way. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and overall it’s a nice looking set.
Video is an AVC encoded 1.85:1 affair and, predictably, it looks fantastic. I say predictably only because this is a modern production and you really only are surprised by modern transfers anymore if they look bad—which this one doesn’t. While it’s a very dark movie for the most part, it has a nice color palette as well even if it is a bit washed out looking at times. Plenty of details in clothing and hair as well as copious amounts of gruesome blood splatter make this a definite feast for the eyes to see.
And a feast for the ears as well! The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is deafening at times with all of the guns and knife play that gets tossed about in the speakers; it does have it’s quieter, tender moments spread throughout this two hour film, but the areas you’ll remember most are the action sequences—they’re really just fantastic from start to finish. This film is a definite pleasure to feast your eyes and ears upon.
Extras are sadly quite limited. Included:
You know the extras are limited when “English Soundtrack” is listed; but for those who wish to watch the film in English you get a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track as well…though naturally I recommend you watch it in the original Korean. We’re all passed the subtitle stigma at this point, right? In any case the extras aren’t really all that in-depth and they last under half an hour when combined together…but at least there’s something to check out on the disc besides the flick.
Overall a Highly Recommended disc. The extras are light but the film is a strong one and the A/V presentation is fantastic.
The Man from Nowhere arrives on Blu-ray on March 8th.