There’s a tough little sub genre of spy films, I like to call the ‘messed with the wrong guy’ spy film. It usually features a band of villains picking on a person or group of civilians (often a family), and it just so happens that these people have been befriended by or related to a retired bad-ass spy. To the villains, the spy just seems like an old codger (or a nobody), but we know, despite the wrinkles or low-key personality, this guy is a lethal weapon.
Generally these films tends to play more like a revenge flick and have a tendency to be rather violent. And that’s the perfect lead-in to The Man From Nowhere, which I think is one the best of these violent revenge flicks to come out in the last few years. Some people say that these films aren’t actually spy films, and in a way they are right, however, it is the skill set that these characters have learned through their spy training that allow them to perform the deeds that they do. And often these offensives against the bad guys, are planned and carried out, just like an espionage mission.
Here the ex-agent in question is CHA Tae-shik (Won Bin), and he used to be a highly effective deep cover agent. However, his life is shattered, when some evil doers retaliate against him, by killing his pregnant wife and of course, attempting to kill him. But after the death of his wife, CHA leaves the service and becomes an unkempt recluse, running a pawn shop in a poor area of town. His only connection to the outside world is his neighbour’s daughter, So-mi (Kim Sae-ron). Her mother, is a junky, and when she steals a shipment of heroine from an underworld syndicate, the mobsters come after her, killing her, and taking away So-mi, and simply housing her until she comes of age, where she her organs can be harvested and sold on the black market. Naturally, CHA steps up, and goes searching for So-mi.
As you can imagine, so of the themes in this film are pretty bleak, but it is a wild, emotional ride over the duration of its running time. And I hate to admit this, but I was crying like a girl at the end. So the film has a certain emotional content that resonated with me, but the real reason to watch this film is for the amazing fight scenes. They are tough, brutal and realistic, and almost hurt to watch. If you haven’t caught up with The Man From Nowhere, it’s worth tracking down.