Review – Man from the Equator
There is a certain grandiose nature (also known as being waaaay overdramatic for no reason) to these older melodramas that can’t be replicated. Maybe it’s the standard tv (box) formatting. Maybe it’s the lack of fancy cinematography, most of the shots are head on and there are many long cuts. Maybe it’s the emotional music, reminiscent of soap operas from the States in the late 20th century. There’s a roughness to the characters, a grittiness and cruelty… as well as honest and instinctual love. This is a story about two young men who become unlikely best friends, the smartest boy in the school and the street fighter. They are two totally different people, and though they become best friends, their values, motivations, and personalities remain independent of one another, even over time. In a way, those are some of the best friendships. And like most good things, they require a lot of work. So does this drama. Perhaps more work than it deserves…
The first part of this drama is captivating and interesting – but unfortunately the second and third part just drag and drag and drag. Part two involves a wandering story line of love and blindness, and part three is about revenge but manages to forget that half the time and just bore us with flashbacks, unnecessarily long sequences of staring, walking, staring, pondering, staring and more staring. I don’t think I’ve seen a show that enjoyed focusing on a character just staring pensively into the distance more Man from the Equator. Still, I didn’t hate it I just… wanted to speed it up.
Overall Rating – 4/10. Not Recommended For Tourists.
More plot musings and spoilers and discussion follow…
So, back to our two young main characters.
Both of these young boys are put into very difficult situations at a very young age. The rough and tumble boy takes a beating that nearly kills him in order to protect his young nerdy friend. We’re talking… horrible beating with the death being the intention. The kid literally jumps off a bridge onto a moving train in order to escape being killed. That’s not something most people are called upon to do for their friends. Then our young nerd, not many moons later, is put in the impossible situation of having to choose between protecting his father or standing with his friend. One of the two has to die… so, tragically, he murders his own best friend. The guy who literally almost died to protect him. Beats him with a club and throws him into the ocean.
There’s no way to really recuperate the damage done to your soul after you try to kill your best friend. It’s fascinatingly horrible to watch our nerd’s descent into personal hell. A part of you breaks and can never be mended. And so often… that broken piece gets bigger over time.
The best friend survived this attempt on his life, only to fall into a coma and awaken several years later with the loss of his eyesight. Watching Uhm Tae-Woong play a blind man was NOT my favorite viewing experience. Generally he’s a wonderful, if not a bit heavy-handed actor, but honestly… there’s no need to be cross eyed just because you’re blind. It was long suffering through these episodes… and the “romance” was anything but romantic, in my opinion. Just… skip this entire section. They flash back to it a billion times later, anyways, so it’s not like you’ll really miss anything.
The other boy, the murder, has grown up to be a prosecutor with his father in tow – both of them now bonded with their murderous ways and locked under the thumb of a gangster whose power and money they both rely on to survive. Prosecutor boy seems to be deeply in denial of his vicious past and gangster connections and pretty happy with the world… until his buddy wakes up from his coma. Then it’s back to eating paranoia soup every morning for breakfast with daddy, wondering when their worlds’ are going to crumble apart.
I found Lee Joon-Hyuk to be the most interesting character in the “grown up” version of this show. Nothing like a man tormented. He was old enough now to have fully digested the horrible thing he’d done and it had festered deep inside him for years… it made him both cruel, vulnerable, unstable, heartbreakingly shifty and fascinatingly on edge. I had NO IDEA what he was going to do from scene to scene. Seriously. Would he break down? Laugh? Cry? Kiss her? Slap her? Kill him? What? He was so scattered anything was possible which made him, really, the only interesting character.
The artist was also interesting, played by Lim Jung-Eun – but she didn’t make as much sense. Unless we’re just going to believe that being shafted by a guy you liked when you were fifteen is enough to make you go nuts for the rest of your life… then the plot line for this girl didn’t work. There is a certain self-destructive tendency inside people to go after people that don’t return your affections… especially if you believe you once saw a spark there, however dim. But is it enough to throw away your life over? Your sanity? Well, according to K-Dramas, yes. Yes, it is. It always is! That is the nature of many second leads, after all… (Moon Embracing the Sun, anyone?). Even though she didn’t make a lot of sense, she was oh so fun to watch! Her early 21st century style! Her awesome make up! Her art studio! Her blackmail via obviously photoshopped production stills! Her hot-cold, on-off, kiss me-kill me flirtations were just… wow… she was a really good fit for our unstable prosecutor, truth be told. It’s a shame he didn’t recognize the crazy in her right away as a complementary color to his own.
Side Note: Even I felt sorry for her when Uhm sliced her paintings up, though! Respect the art, man! Respect the art!!!
Our other leading lady started off charming and interesting as a young actress….
and grew up to be a ham sandwich with nothing on it. No mustard, no mayo, no lettuce, no tomato… just a piece of ham stuffed between two pieces of white bread. Soooooo incredibly dry and boring. Lord, someone electrocute that woman or something! She’s so gorgeous and easy to look at, but not a single inch of expression ever crosses her face other than mild amusement, mild interest, mild attraction, mild anger…. and then she breaks down into hysterics. Ugh. Just put Lee Bo-Young on day time television already.
The old men actors were all cool. It’s interesting that there were NO MOTHERS in this show. Except the one, the wife of the gangster dude. She collected china and helped him skirt the law. I loved her, of course. But where were all the other ladies?
The best father, of course, was the artist’s father. The Shamen. The swindler fortune teller, gambler and ladies man. That dude was awesome start to finish. And the prosecutor’s pathetic father was also great… who’d let his own life fall apart, then made a deal with the devil to get out of hell… and spent the rest of his days trying to convince himself that other people were the demons, not him. Poor bastard. He was doomed.
They were all doomed, really. Because revenge plots never end well for anyone. But you know what did work out? Uhm Tae-Woong’s rockin’ hair style in Part 3! He has never looked better, in my opinion.