The press notes describe The Man from Nowhere as “Taken meets Oldboy”, but it’s more like Taken had an orgy and invited Oldboy, The Professional, Man on Fire, I Saw the Devil, and pretty much every other revenge thriller to be released in the last 20 years. Virtually everything cool about The Man from Nowhere seems to have been lifted directly from another movie, but that doesn’t render the resulting film any less awesome. There’s a reason this was the highest grossing movie in Korea in 2010. Hitting all the revenge thriller notes with obvious relish, it’s a slick, highly satisfying piece of anger-rush cinema.
Tae-Sik Cha is a quiet loner with manga hair who runs the pawnshop in his seedy neighborhood. He befriends the young daughter of a drug-addicted dancer, but when a drug deal goes bad, the mother and daughter are kidnapped and dealt to an organ-smuggling ring. After the mother’s body is discovered––sans organs––Tae-Sik Cha takes it upon himself to rescue the young girl before her corneas can be harvested (!)
Although it lacks I Saw the Devil’s visceral shocks or Oldboy’s pervy twist ending, The Man from Nowhere knows how to deliver when it matters, primarily in the final third. More than a few colorful bad guys are introduced early on. It’s like the giddy pleasure that comes with seeing a bunch of stupid teenagers introduced at the beginning of a slasher movie––there’s no question that these fuckfaces will die, but how…and in what order? When Tai-Sik Cha finally opens up his can of whoop-ass and gets down to business, action fans will have a hard time wiping the shit-eating grin off their collective faces.
The hand-to-hand combat is mesmerizing, a flurry of punches, slaps, and twists. One insanely cool camera shot follows Tai-Sik Cha as he sprints down a hallway, crashes through a window, and drop rolls to the pavement below. It’s completely bad ass.
Bin Won (Mother) plays Tai-Sik Cha with just the right amount of quiet charisma, a performance that‘s effortlessly engaging. As he progresses through the common rituals of the revenge flick––suffering through a feverish bullet wound recovery in one scene, shaving his head while shirtless and staring intensely at his own mirrored reflection in another––he builds sympathy and tension all the way up to the The Man from Nowhere’s brutal, bone-snapping climax.