And Won Bin shall come running to my embrace… Yeah right. In my dreams. I wish.
The term “ajusshi (아저씨)” is a unique one. I may not be Korean, but I’ve watched enough and listened enough to pretty much derive the general perception of the meaning encompassing the term. You know, the older guy living next door who usually dons old-fashioned clothes and ugly hair, and who comes leeching on your food whenever he can. The guy whom you can just yell at to your heart’s content and never feel a single tint of regret or remorse. The guy whom you’d always go to for advice and then the next minute forget about because he’s not pretty, handsome nor cool. In short, that older guy whom you will almost never miss out in every single Korean drama out there but will most probably forget by the end of every episode. Sad? Very. But someone has to play good ol’ buddy confidante and hide behind the spotlight whilst the young and pretty take the center stage right?
All of a sudden however, in 2004. Something changed. Ajusshi was no longer old. Ajusshi was no longer ugly and out-of-date. Ajusshi was no longer the shadow confidante. Ajusshi became someone like him: –
An ajusshi who became my love ever since. ❤
(I just had to give Moo Hyuk a special mention. For no other ajusshi was able to tug at my heartstrings like Eun Chae’s ajuhssi did in MISA/I’m Sorry I Love You. *recalls Eun Chae calling ajusshi 1000 freaking times, and I m tearing up now..T_T)
Now, on to the point of my post. “Ajusshi”, the movie.
“Ajusshi” is titled “The Man From No Where” in English. Both titles make perfect sense as Won Bin plays the “ajusshi” in the movie and actually pops out from nowhere, with no exact account of his identity or background, to save the kidnapped young kid whom he had befriended next door.
The movie came with a great accolades, with it having bagged numerous awards including Best Movie and Best Actor (for Won Bin) at some of the most prominent film awards (eg. Blue Dragon Awards, Korea Film Awards etc) last year. So naturally I had a somewhat more than average expectation for the movie. Best Movie and Best Actor, this movie cannot possibly be BAD right? Well, it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t that great either for it to have bagged all those awards?! Or maybe it’s just purely personal taste.
The premise of the movie is fairly simple. Won Bin plays a man from nowhere. Who doesn’t have a name (not until later in the movie). Lives in a eerie dim house. Doesn’t really talk. And covers his beautiful statuesque face under messy ajumma-ish hair (WTF factor – *how can they let this angelic and boyish face go hidden?!* ). He befriends So-Mi (played by Kim Sae Ron) from next door, a young girl who doesn’t have the nicest family background to follow with. Mom’s a drug addict who doesn’t give a single damn concern about her daughter’s welfare. And you know playing with drugs end you up in doom and when you lose control of yourself, you do anything to get your hands on them. Mom steals her supply from a drug-lord, daughter gets hurled away. She calls, “Ajusshi!”. And that marks the beginning of Won Bin’s pursuit of the bad guys to save his lil friend. It’s just as simple as that.
Maybe that’s the thing. Maybe that’s why. The simplicity of the plot. The straightforward and direct approach employed in the execution of the story. Which sorta prevented me from truly appreciating or even liking the whole production. The whole movie felt like it was being cut out straight from a cardboard. So flat-out-edly presented to the audience. You already know what’s gonna happen, you already know the ending. You probably even already know the process.. Story told and yup, that’s good enough? No way. The movie lacked the ability to connect. It lacked the heart.
I watched the movie expecting to have a full-blown and experience and out-pour of emotions. It’s something you would naturally expect from such a plot. The movie had no female lead and no romance. All you have’s only a lil girl and an ajusshi (and of course the baddies). So of course you’d wanna bank on the relationship between the 2 individuals. To see how their bonds would alas bring them back to each other. But then what failed for me was that the experience was nearly impossible. Due to the absence of the “bond” between the 2 individuals that is. The one thing I was so looking forward to thru out the movie. I wanted to see why Won Bin’s character Tae Shik was so drawn to So Mi. I wanted to see their connection. Their friendship. But everything just seemed to fall in place just for the sake of getting the plot moving. First 20 mins, friendship. The next hour, the pursuit. Last 30 mins, their reunion. It’s like nothing was inter-connected in between. It’s as if, you’re supposed to buy that Tae Shik and So Mi were really so closely bonded. Tae Shik felt a sense of responsibility and thus decided to pursue the bad guys just like that. They reunited. The end. I got the point. But I must say that the point was just so blatantly and outrightly shown to you that it felt pointless (if you get what I mean) and meaningless. You want subtleness? You want nuance? Not in here.
It was quite difficult to explore the depth of the relationship between the 2 individuals, like there was any of course. For one thing, So Mi sure did express her fondness towards Tae Shik a lot more than he did towards her. He never flicked. But neither did he show any particular dislike either. Like I said earlier, the connection was so severely lacking, her fondness didn’t help much. All he did was just keep quiet, stared, and that’s about it. There was no reciprocation, no response or reply whatsover. Signs or hints? Nada. Or I just failed to notice them.
Maybe I asked for too much. Maybe that’s the point. Tae Shik was never meant to be reciprocative person. He was never meant to be lively. He was meant to be a dead man walking (but a pretty one I must say). [Highlight for spoilers:] But the thing about him having ended up the way he was, as spurred by his pregnant wife’s demise in a car accident 3 years ago, did not enforce nor strengthen my belief that he had acted to save So Mi because she was like the child he never had. It was just too forced out and intended. Like as if it was incorporated to make his actions more justifiable and right when they’re obviously on the other side of the law. The girl was more like a device rather than the key to his actions.
The one thing that stuck for me in the movie, was Won Bin. And I mean it both in a good and a bad way. The good, very apparent, explanation not required, but I still want to say it out. WON BIN IS ONE F*CKING FINE HUMAN BEING!!! (The above photo proves more than enough!) He seriously made me SWOON thruout the entire movie. Never mind that he didn’t speak much. Never mind that he didn’t even smile. His screen presence was more than enough to burn down my screen.
What I liked about Won Bin in this movie, apart from his facial features and hot body of course, was that he was able to show an intense grip of his emotions in this movie. I had already long noticed his talent in his earlier movie Taegukgi, his following projects up until his recent hit Mother in which he displayed an immense bout of acting range. His character Tae Shik, like I said earlier, was an introvert. A loner. But when he exploded, he went bust like no other. I liked it when he used his eyes to convey his fury. I liked it when he went all implosive and then BANG! exploded thru his actions. He showed charisma like no other and made his character a feast for the sight. There were times when I thought he could have done better, but I reckoned that with Tae Shik’s characterization (too heroic and superman-ish) and his already near perfect facial features, it probably helped that he showed some flaws.
What bugged me tho (gah, the irony!) was the movie was more like a tool for him to show off his machismo qualities rather than a plot about him going to save the girl. Honestly speaking, I didn’t even get the impression that the girl was important at all. She’d only appeared for about 30 mins and the rest was Won Bin’s act. Not that I’m complaining of over-exposure of the man, but where’s the girl when she’s also hyped up as the lead in the movie? Even if they hadn’t intended to show much of her, at least make her presence and or importance more “felt”?
Kim Sae Ron, I felt, was being deprived of the opportunity to shine in the movie. If her character was more fleshed out for our viewing, we could have seen something in the actress. Her potential is evident from her brief scenes with Tae Shik (but so as a lot of other Korean kids) but somehow she wasn’t able to get out of the box due to the lacking script. Hopefully she’ll land herself something more solid the next time round.
Although the script failed to intrigue me or make me go WOW, the actions sequences sure did. It’s a salvaging point because altho I didn’t exactly think they were necessary, I have to admit they were nicely shot. Tho Tae Shik seemed t0o GREAT to be true, AND to be defeated at all, the sequences looked fairly real to me. It also didn’t help when the guy fighting is WON BIN. *girls can scream to their hearts’ content whenever Won Bin manages to tackle one down*
I have watched quite some Korean movies and dramas to notice the rampant and unrestrained use of violence as plot devices. I have no idea whether such violent and aggressive behaviours as portrayed in movies and dramas are a commonplace in the Korean society for real. But I find it rather sad that a lot of them find resolve with such methods. Take for example, Tae Shik’s actions in the last half hour of the movie. The whole time I was trying to justify his actions. I told myself, he wants to save the girl. He wants to get his revenge. His anger is overpowering him. So he’s not entirely wrong. But the minute he went on the spree, I swallowed hard. Why? Why so? I could not but take back all the justifications which I’d fervently tried to cast on his actions. Sad case unfortunately. But when you cross the line, you cross the line. There is no way back for you.
Overall, Ajusshi was moderately watchable. Like I concluded earlier on into my review, the movie wasn’t entirely a bad feast. It just lacked that one crucial element which was able to move and touch the hearts of many, hence the greater the disappointment, knwoing that it had potential to be stellar. To many, Won Bin might have been the saving grace (and to a certain extent, for me as well). But I sure need something GOOD next to get rid of the bitter after-taste.
Maybe I should rewatch that head-shaving scene of Won Bin again? Teehee~~