The Man From Nowhere Review

Korean blockbuster hits DVD retail in the UK

The Film

Lee Jeong-beom has done very solid business in Asia and it’s easy to see why audiences have embraced his film. Extremely stylish, kinetic, violent and sentimental, The Man From Nowhere is fantastic crowd pleasing entertainment. Yet I would claim much more than that, this film is surprisingly touching, wickedly funny and passionate about its victims – outsider children in modern crime riddled South Korea. The Man From Nowhere dares to use the dark soul of trafficking in organs and people, and questions whether a world that treats loved ones and children like this is really worth surviving in. Still my fruity moralising is not really the point here as you want to know if this action movie is good at the action stuff. And it is, very with an immense fight sequence in its conclusion that recalls the relentlessness of Oldboy whilst bucking the trend of modern choppy editing by using long continuous takes instead. In fact, this is one of the more violent films that you will see this year with the sheer mendacity of the villains providing some of the most repellent moral and physical acts you will have seen for some time. Never pulling any punches and willing to suggest even worse carnage than you actually see on screen, the violence is predicated in the morality of a revenge movie but justified by the genuine anguish at the film’s heart.

The story is a little bit Leon, a little Kill Bill and some James Bond. Tae is an ex-spy devastated at the death of his wife on his last mission. Hiding out under the guise of a pawnshop owner, he is befriended by the young daughter of a drug addled stripper who is on the run from two mobster brothers and their insane desire to farm out human organs and children to make money. Tae becomes their fall guy, his young friend, So-mi, is lost into the underworld and the police are happy with their patsy. Left as So-mi’s only hope, Tae begins chasing down his enemies to save this loveless child.Now this could sound a little shameless in its exploitative story, and that is a reasonable criticism, but The Man From Nowhere reminded me a lot of a modern western where the decent broken down Tae recovers his humanity despite the vengeance he wreaks. So-mi is surprisingly effective in generating sympathy and pathos, and the almost unbearable contrast between these desperate adults and her innocent dependence serves to be both stomach churning and gut wrenching. I am not sure whether I am a bit of a sucker for that whole children as our last hope of humanity thing, but if I am then I am happy to be exploited here.

This is an adult film, quite gory and brutal in many ways. It does seem to have a clear moral belief in the story and doesn’t excuse Tae’s guilt for what he is forced to do out of duty. Shot with a good bunch of characterful actors, many doing several shades of monster, and supremely photographed for a modern noirish look that owes a little to Park Chan Wook in the switches from brilliant white to unbearable dark, The Man From Nowhere is extremely competent and sure of touch. Even the few moments of off humour work, and these lighten the serious tone when the tension is in danger of depressing any hopes for dramatic deliverance. CGI blood will annoy some, but most will enjoy a taut decent film with its head and its heart in the right place. Recommended.

Tech Specs

Entertainment one offer the film on a dual layer disc with a very basic menu and some trailers of indifferent visual quality when the disc loads. Strangely, the opening and closing titles of the film are of inferior quality to the film itself with heavy interlacing and bad contrast making them very hard to bear without a headache. Otherwise the original aspect ratio presentation is jolly good with no excessive edge enhancement, excellent detail, fine black levels and only a little blooming in the colours to complain of.The audio options come with well translated optional English subtitles in a very readable font. I watched the film using the 5.1 mix which reproduces the classy score well and keeps the dialogue clear throughout. Coverage across the channels allow for plenty of directionality with effects giving the car chases and gun fights strong enveloping detail. The bass and rumbling through the LFE channel add to the suspense and atmosphere and complete a strong audio treatment.


A cracking and moving revenge tale which never relents on entertainment, action and drama. This is a decent transfer and bare-bones release offered very affordably.

John White

Updated: Apr 02, 2011

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