Review – Hwayi: A Monster Boy

Hwayi: A Monster Boy is melodrama mixed with mayhem. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, and it’s blunt in its delivery… but it works. I enjoyed this movie so much I watched it twice.

The plot is relatively simple – a young boy is kidnapped and held hostage, but something goes wrong in the exchange. Rather than kill the boy (or, you know, return him), the group of vicious criminals known as the Daylight Robbers decide to keep the kid and raise him themselves.

Shockingly, the young boy grows up to be a solid student, a talent artist, and an overall nice guy. Sure, he’s got obvious problems… like imagining a gigantic, horrific creature stalks him, always just around the corner. He seems shy around girls, which is not surprising considering the only female influence he’s had is the shattered woman the gang keep chained to the kitchen sink. But overall, all things considered, our hostage seems to be hanging in there with his rowdy bunch of degenerate fathers.

Of course… that’s all about to spiral drastically out of control in the next hour and a half of the film, so… buckle up.

The main plot kicks off right before our young protagonist is set to go off to art school and possibly escape his “family.”  Fate lures the whole gang back to the beginning – to the boy’s parents and secret grudges and haunting connections between all the characters. It was… tragic and heartbreaking and deeply, deeply disturbing.

This movie felt like someone had condensed an entire 16 episode violent melodrama drama down into 2 episodes. Each character felt fully realized, unique, and solid in the world – and it was easy to imagine exploring each of their backstories and current lives in more detail had it been a drama series instead of a film. The twists and turns of the plot were wild but also worked easily within the narrative and world of the story. The acting was exceptional – in particular the two male leads (Kim Yun-Seok and Yeo Jin-Goo) – though even side characters charged into their scenes with the gusto and confidence of a leading role, as if each were trying to steal the entire movie.

Watch it when you want an evening of exciting, blood-soaked melodrama.

4.5/5 Stars

Review – My Beautiful Bride

Review – My Beautiful Bride

Basic Plot – a banker proposes to his pretty young girlfriend and a few days later, she disappears.  As he tries to find her, everyone is dragged into the secret vortex of these people’s lives and the criminal underworld – including you, dear viewer.

I loved this show from the first episode.  It had a strange vibe.  A uniqueness.  It reminded me, in a way, of Heartless City… which also lives by itself in a universe of its own genre.  Not quite this, not quite that.  Violent, bloody, scary, romantic, sentimental, intimate, intense… with action galore and these nice old school thriller shots (you know, the kind were you just follow someone down a dark alley and the tension just grows and grows until you’ve chewed your nails to bits and are jumping at every shadow wondering when something is going to happen).  It jumps back and forth in time.  It reveals the plot slowly, in layers.  You think you know the show in episode two?  Nope.  Episode four?  Nope.  It just keeps changing, morphing, becoming more brilliant.

And then… mysteriously… horribly… I lost interest in it entirely around episode 9 and no longer cared what happened to anyone.  I had to force myself to finish it – but I’m glad I did.  Part 2 had an entirely different tone, but it was still interesting… just not in the same awesome way as Part 1.  It’s like going on a date with someone who got up suddenly in the middle of dinner, went to the bathroom, put on a wig, changed clothes, and sat back down sporting a foreign accent.  What?  What’s happening?!  This was not the show I asked out to dinner… but I still wanted to know what would happen.  I can’t help but think this would have been a 10/10 drama if it were 10  episodes long instead of 16.

Overall Rating – 10/10 First Half, 6/10 Second Half…. so 8/10 Average.  What Happens When Your Fiance Falls Into A Dark Rabbit Hole And You Go Chasing After.

Light spoilers follow…

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Review – Doctor Stranger

Review – Doctor Stranger

What an odd little show.  I have so many conflicting emotions about this drama – because there were so many things I really, really liked and quite a few things I wished I could have vetoed in the writer’s room.  But overall – it’s one of the few medical dramas I enjoyed.

Plot:  A brilliant surgeon and his young son are sent on a secret diplomatic mission to North Korea – only to be betrayed by their own country and kept by the North Koreans!  The young man grows up there, following the footsteps of his father to become a doctor, but due to the lack of equipment and technology, learns “old school.” His childhood sweetheart and fiance is taken by the secret police shortly after agreeing to marry him.  When he’s near graduation, he is taken by the government to a secret facility to perfect his craft of heart surgery, by devious and nefarious means.  He spends several years imprisoned in this nightmarish place – secretly searching for his fiance.  He finally finds her right when his opportunity to escape the country presents itself – and attempts to flee with his lady love only to lose her in the process.  Several years later, in South Korea, a series of events leads him to be hired as a new surgeon at a prestigious hospital.  There he meets a woman who looks identical to his fiance, but claims not to know him.  Who is this mysterious woman?  And will he ever find his lost love?  While all these burning questions linger, there is an awesome new woman in his life who vies for his heart… but can he ever escapes the secrets of his terrible past and get over his first love?

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Pyongyang Medical School is Not For The Faint of Heart.

More Discussion and Spoilers Follow….

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