Friday, August 23, 2013

Nice Guy (The Innocent Man) Korean Drama Review

My soundtrack for writing this review tonight is this song:
It felt strangely appropriate.  You'll find out why in a minute.


Anyway, I've been trying to step out of my kdrama comfort zone lately.  I am normally a solid rom com kind of girl, and revenge melodramas aren't really my cup of tea. Dying and crying? Blech. Give me lovesick hijinks any day.

After Sungkyunkwan Scandal, however, I really wanted to watch more from the best bromance in the world. After accidentally (completely on purpose) reading a spoiler for Yoo Ah In's Fashion King and realizing that I would really, really hate it, I was left no choice but to go with Song Joong Ki's Nice Guy (also known as Innocent Man). Unfortunately, Song Joong Ki is just leaving for military service, which means no more shows from him for a while. Why now? Just when I've developed a mild obsession!

The basic plot is this: In a case of seriously flawed logic, a guy goes to jail for a murder he doesn't commit.  Once he gets out, he becomes a gigolo (whaaaaaaat?) and then revengey stuff happens. And love stuff happens. And revengey-love stuff happens. Ridiculous.
This is from the intro credits. He's shedding a single tear! And he dropped his watch! Because--time! And feelings!

Bottom line? I loved every single absurd, glorious, melodramatic second of it. I'm not even embarrassed. Here's the breakdown:


The Plot

When a murder happens in the first 20 minutes of episode 1, you know you're in for a wild kdrama ride, and this show's plot was crazy with a capital CRAZY.  I mean, at one point in the show, one of the characters starts to recover from amnesia, and the shock of her recovery--wait for it--gives her more amnesia. Because according to kdrama logic, what's better than amnesia? DOUBLE AMNESIA! What's better than a head injury? DOUBLE HEAD INJURY! What's better than blackmailing? DOUBLE BLACKMAILING! You get the picture.

The Characters

To be honest, the plot wasn't what really won me over because it wasn't that great. If you want to know why I temporarily stopped sleeping or showering and had some intense marathons with this show, here's the answer:
He's disappointed you even had to ask.

In my experience, most kdramas tend to be external.  What I mean by that is that exterior events incite change in the characters, and that change is manifested in outward action.  For example, a girl gets slightly cold and then--in a crazy twist of fate--faints. We then know that the man has developed feelings for her because he carries her home and watches over her all night long. 

As I just said, Nice Guy has a lot of external stuff happening, but at its core, it's actually an intensely internal show.  Even when Kang Ma Roo makes the outward gestures typical in drama romances, we can never be sure if it's sincere or not--because he doesn't even know if he's being sincere. His character goes beyond the usual  "I love you, but I'm also conflicted because I'm angry/guilty" conflict into something more complex, and Song Joong Ki does an incredible job portraying the character. Half of the time, I wasn't sure if I should be swooning or swearing at the computer because Joong Ki's Ma Roo is so flawed and messy and confused. That internal tension is what made this drama so engaging.    
Tormented sad Quasimodo face! Who wouldn't be intrigued?

For the first five episodes or so, Moon Chae Won also holds her own as Seo Eun Gi.  Sure, she's a little bit abrasive, but she's also sassy and powerful.  We all know how much I love that in a female lead!  Unfortunately, Moon Chae Won doesn't get much to do for the second half of the series once her character gets turned into an amnesiac plot device.  The show is really all about Kang Ma Roo, but I saw just enough of Moon Chae Won's abilities as an actress to make me wish they had used her a little bit better here.
I wish we got more of this "stop messing with me, or I will eat your internal organs raw" face.

And then we come to the character who made me angrier than any other kdrama villain has ever made me in my entire life: Han Jae Hee (Park Si Yeon).  I think what made her so upsetting was that she wasn't just horrible for the sake of being a terrible person.  She was an exaggerated version of someone you could meet in real life.  She was manipulative and selfish, but not out of some unreasonable desire to ruin other people's lives.  Instead, she's a Daisy Buchanan: beautiful and alluring, but completely self-absorbed.  She wants everything, but she doesn't want to sacrifice anything. (And now you know why that Great Gatsby song got stuck in my head. Any excuse for a nerdy lit reference!)  She's so self-absorbed, in fact, that every time she talks about Kang Ma Roo, she says something to the effect of "that man who I loved more than my own life" without realizing that he's exactly the opposite. She didn't love him more than her own life; she didn't even love him more than her own job!  Really? You need to commit suicide if you can't be a journalist? There are no other careers out there that you could do so that your boyfriend doesn't have to go to prison and become a gigolo?
Wearing glittery blazers is also a pretty surefire way to make me hate you as a character.
I want to talk about ALL of the characters because that's how engrossing this show was, but I'll stop here.

Other Things about This Show

Is it just me, or were the music choices for this show a little off sometimes?  I almost stopped halfway through episode 1 because, while I can handle dramatic murders and cover-ups, the over-the-top soap opera tango music was just too much.  You shouldn't be busting out the murder accordions (murdercordions?) until at least episode four!  I also recall one scene where two people were blackmailing each other at a cafe (I can't remember who it was because basically everyone blackmailed everyone else during the course of the show), and Jason Mraz was playing.  How are you supposed to drive fear into your opponent's heart with "I Won't Give Up"--possibly the most mellow song on the entire planet--playing in the background?

(Spoilers) Can we have a little heart-to heart about episode 20 for a second? I know that a lot of people just hated it outright, but I'm kind of torn.  Sure, it was tonally inconsistent with the rest of the show.  It was also kind of confusing and didn't mention anything about what happened to Tae San.  I mean, I didn't really care for most of the office politics throughout the show, but after 20 episodes of shouting OMO WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN TO TAE SAN???????, the writers should have included something about it!

The one thing that saved that ending for me was the relationship between Ma Roo and Eun Gi.  Throughout the show, Kang Ma Roo's obsession was his need to save the women in his life. His love for Jae Hee, Choco, and Eun Gi all grows out of his ability to protect them when they are vulnerable or helpless.  Because Eun Gi is a helpless amnesiac for over half of the show (Can you tell I'm a little miffed about this?), I wasn't ever entirely sure if Ma Roo could love her once she no longer relied on him. Even at the end of episode 19, he gets stabbed, and his primary concern is sending her off before she can notice. (Wait, how did she not notice that gigantic blood stain on his stomach?) 

Episode 20 resolved that issue for me.  Even if it was inconsistent with the rest of the show, I needed to see that he could love her without always having to save her.  They built a relationship on friendship and respect, not on an attraction that grew out of pity or guilt.

Am I suddenly converted to revenge melos?  Probably not.  Could I even handle watching this one all the way through again?  Probably not.  But it's still definitely worth a watch.

The Twitter Version of this Review

Song Joong Ki is awesome. Watch this show immediately. Don't let the murdercordions deter you. #...something clever. Aw, forget it. I don't understand how to use hashtags. Just watch this show.

Where to watch Nice Guy:
Hulu

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16 comments:

  1. I wasn't a huge fan of Nice Guy because I didn't like any of the characters. I really need someone to root for when I'm watching a drama, and Nice Guy had no decent characters. I mean, his friend and the sister were fine, but they were so secondary that i had no opinions of them whatsoever. I did like Jae Hee though, because she wasn't your typical villain. She was self absorbed and delusional, but she was also confused and scared and really did think she loved Ma Ru. So, i felt sorry for her, and could never really hate her. I hated Eun Gi in the beginning, and then liked her as an amnesiac, but then once she got her memories back, I wasn't really sure how I felt about her. And the ending just confused me, lol.

    Watching Nice Guy made me realise that revenge melodramas will never be my thing.

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    1. That's something I forgot to mention. Usually, I want to be best friends with all of the characters, and I definitely didn't have that reaction here. Even though I didn't want to hang out with any of them, I was interested to watch and see how they turned out, and I was glad that we got some closure on why thy did the things they did at the end (and some recognition that a lot of the things they did were terrible ideas).

      And I agree about revenge melodramas. I liked this one, and I STILL feel like they will never be my thing! :)

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  2. Murdercordions. Awesome.

    Also, good to know I am not the only one who sacrifices sleep for the love of a good kdrama.

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  3. You're definitely right about this show having an internal facet that a lot of Kdramas lack. The next time you're looking for something dark and traumatizing to watch (hey, it might happen!), I highly recommend (almost) all of this screenwriter's shows. A Love to Kill, Thank You, and I'm Sorry, I Love You all tackle dirty, dangerous things most Kdramas are scared to death of getting near. And Sang Doo, Let's Go to School is actually just doo.

    P.S. Have fun at Kcon, you two! I can't wait to read/watch your coverage.

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    1. The next time it's a rainy day (okay, week), maybe I'll stock up on chocolate and wrap myself in blankets and tackle one of those shows! I'm definitely more likely to try more from this screenwriter than other melodramas.

      Kcon was so much fun! We'll get some posts up once we recover from total sleep deprivation!

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  4. I'm with you in loving this overall. I like that Song Joong Ki had to basically carry the show, it was bold to build the entire series around the character conflict of the lead. I loved Moon Chae Won in it too, after loathing her character in Take Care of the Young Lady/My Fair Lady, and thought the post-amnesiac Eun Gi was an interesting blend of before and after.

    As for the end, I would have thrown something at the screen if it hadn't delivered some fanservice after all that angst, but besides that, I did actually like the very last shot, the one you capped. The fact that it's THOSE rings was a quietly upbeat ending. I think my real problem with the end was highlighted in the dramabeans recap - too much shoehorned into the last two episodes. This was a rare instance of series that could have benefitted from a one episode extension to flesh out the ending more consistently, including doing justice to Attorney Park, poor guy. Overall, like you, my main reaction is profound disappointment that Song Joong Ki has to play soldier for the next 2 years. :(

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    1. Like you, I was disappointed that we didn't get to flesh out the ending for all of the characters (especially Attorney Park). Instead of an extension, I think they could have paced the middle episodes a bit better, and then they would have had time to spare.

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  5. Loving the song at the beginning <3 I want to watch that show now XP

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  6. Plz nice guy is the one of the best drama ever i love it i watched like 3 times and i still love it :D

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  7. Have you seen the movie Wolf Boy aka A Werewolf Boy, starring Song JoongKi (looking ten years younger)? If you haven't, I highly recommend it as a tider while you wait for him to finish his military service. It plays a bit like Edward Scissorhands+Peter Pan, crossed with an improved version of Twilight. It's so sweet and touching and sad-in-a-good-way, that I was actually crying a little at the end -- and I'm a grown man!

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    1. I keep hearing about Werewolf Boy, but I haven't seen it yet. Now I just need to get my hands on a subtitled version!

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  8. I just finished this one, and I LOVED it. One thing I really loved was that you didn't have to wait forever for each kiss. Despite the fact that the show was somewhat dark, romance totally permeated it. This was my first time seeing Song Joong Ki, and I adore him. He is gorgeous and charismatic, and I thought he did a great job. After reading some online comments, I was afraid the ending would be unsatisfactory, but I really liked it. I wish the ending could have gone on longer (but this seems to be a habit with Kdrama--after all the angst, you only get a brief moment of reconciliation--but that's ok because the pleasure I get from these shows is so enormous, I'm not complaining.) This drama had so many really sweet moments such as when Ma Roo was lying there "sleeping" and hearing his loved ones laughing and playing and it made him feel so happy. For a "dark" drama, there were plenty of moments like that. This one definitely goes into my top10.

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  9. I read it, and I can´t stop laughing ! thanks !
    PS : I loved this drama to much , but I agree with you

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  10. Omg, I'm so happy! I'm not alone. I agree with you :D

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  11. I agree with you. Nice Guy was CRAZY. The drama kept going on and on, I had no rest as each problem became solved and another problem appeared. Then, Seo Eungi...she's annoying af. Like, bish. It was your fault you decided to cling on him. Girlfriend, being hot is sadly not a crime. She is so much better when she lost her memories. Aaaand~ Jaehee, she's just confused. She's blinded by the greed and forgot about what was important. I mean I seriously screamed at Maru for covering her crime. He shouldn't have done that. The ending was fulfilling, I didn't hate it.


    If there's new romance melodramas with hot characters, I would totally watch it. I was in for a ride, with Nice Guy.

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