Heartless City

Original Title: 무정도시 / Moojungdoshi / Cruel City

Episodes: 20

Year: 2013

Country: South Korea

Channel: JTBC

Theme: Mystery, Suspense, Noir, Romance

               Plot: Cruel City (Heartless City), a 20 episode drama, flew mostly under the radar during it’s broadcast. In a similar vein, this dark noir piece talks of the seedy underbelly of a city where police and criminals are indiscriminate. The story starts with Jung Shi Hyun, better known as Doctor’s Son, who is a middle level boss in a cocaine drug  ring. Accompanied by his trusty right hand man, Soo, and beautiful yet deadly “aunt”, Jin Sook, his faction is a force to be reckoned with in the shady underworld of criminal organizations. On the other side, the legal side, we have Hyung Min and Soo Min. Hyung Min, son of a Prosecutor is a fiery young detective hell bent on crushing the cocaine rings in the city that ruined his brother. Soo Min is the younger “sister” of Hyung Min’s fiance. Though they don’t find out at first, Shi Hyun, Soo Min, and her sister had all grown up at an orphange together and Shi Hyun had been her sister’s best friend. After the tragic death of Soo Min’s sister with Shi Hyun present, Hyung Min mistakenly targest Shi Hyun as the killer of his fiance. What ensues is a cat and mouse game between Shi Hyun and Hyung Min.

However, what the police don’t know is that Shi Hyun himself is a police officer! He as working as a undercover boss to ferret out the bigger fish for the police chief. Not to be outdone, Hyung Min sends in Soo Min as an undercover agent to get close to Shi Hyun through his “auntie”. Soo Min herself was also hellbent on finding her sister’s killer who she and Hyung Min thought to be Doctor’s Son. Little by little, Soo Min becomes embroiled in the dark criminal world, developing true feelings for Shi Hyun, not knowing that he was the Doctor’s son, and forming a deep bond of friendship with JIn Sook, Shi Hyun’s auntie. The story gains speed as Shi Hyun realizes much of what he is fighting for was for naught as the Police Chief himself was corrupt. Hyung Min himself ferrets out the truth between his fiance’s death as well as the diceptions and corruptness of the higher authorities, including his own father. Even Soo Min finds out where her true loyalty lies, makes amends, and accepts what her heart wants. With both sides making sacrifices and doing their best to try to set the records straight, there inevitably will be casualties. True identities are ferreted out and decisions were made where to stand, whether they be based on power or loyalty. Though the true hidden villain received his dues, the ending highlights that the corruptedness can be deep and that it will take a lot of diligent work to clean up a system that should have been protecting the people.

               Comments: Cruel City takes what looks like a black and white world and smears it with gray. Nobody is who they seem to be on the outside, everyone has a hidden agenda. Just when you think he is a criminal…you will most likely find that he is or was a police officer! And the police, less than squeaky clean, may have more connections to the bosses than the underling’s themselves! Though the plot started out strong and interesting, it did wean towards the end a little as logic jumps were made and feelings were not thoroughly written out/or were rushed. At some point in the drama, it was even a bit funny that the police were literally chasing themselves because most of the criminals were actually police! But on a more serious note, this drama explores human nature and how the smallest of lies and manipulation can set a person’s course in life forever. The drama emphasized that the criminals themselves formed deeper bonds of trust and loyalty to each other, than the police and prosecutors who were beyond corrupt and backstabbed like no tomorrow. For those looking for romance, this drama offers a bit more risque scenes not often found in other dramas. The forbidden,  yet not so forbidden romance between Shi Hyun and Soo Min was palpable, but burned without consuming each other.  The scenes that were short were cinematically beautiful and one of the best I’ve seen. With dark muted browns interspersed with bright splash of color, one is taken back to the sharp chic style of the 1950s. Even the outfit styles of the men and women makes you think of the era of Audrey Hepburn.  Smokey, passionate, and full of shadows.

               Actor Review: Jung Kyung Ho breathes dark energy into Shi Hyun or Doctor’s Son. First seen in Time Between Dog and Wolf, I had not taken much notice of him as a supporting acting next to Lee Jun Ki. However, this drama showcases his true acting chops where he fully absorbs the dark, restrained, cold, and deeply lonely Shi Hyun who is struggling to step in to the light. Soo Min played Nam Gyuri, was acceptable and a mighty improvement from 49 Days. Trying to shed her dolly persona from back then, she dons on the skin of a woman bent on a revenge, but still so naive to the ways of the world. Unfortunately her character was not written to be a huge plot mover, but she was more than a nice fit to Shi Hyun’s intensity. They made a interesting pair, and the chemistry was definitely there. Hyung Min played by Lee Jae Yoon made a hotheaded young detective.  Though his actions would be questionable in real police work, he made a good contrast to Shi Hyun. Supporting actor Soo played by Yoon Hyun Min was both eye candy, comedic relief, and touching with his bromance.

Quotes: “The world is like a mirror. If you spit and curse at it, the world will spit and curse back at you. If you laugh, I’m sure the world will follow and laugh with you, too. If you can make this shitty world follow you and laugh, you’ve taken your revenge.”


11 thoughts on “Heartless City

  1. Amazing review! It makes me want to check this out! I find dramas about truth and justice hard to watch though because of its complicated concept which always makes me question about the morality in my life.

    • Thank you so much for your feedback! You totally should, it is an underrated drama in my opinion! Mmm I totally I agree, you find yourself on one side and then another, or maybe none at all! Maybe that is why I enjoy revenge dramas a lot because it muddles the moral waters, you start wanting one thing, but end up wondering if their choices are the right ones!

      I was really surprised by Jung Kyung Ho’s performance in here. He was really amazing and this role is very different to the ones he use to play. I love discovering gems like this!

      • You’re welcome^^ I used to wait for people to comment at my blog but then I decided that I will have to take the initiative if I want to make friends through blogging.

        I am learning about morality in religion class now so this is why I said it is hard for me to watch these type of dramas. It just kills my brain cells to think which side to root for and it is so hard to decide what is right and wrong! Would a person be considered bad if he/she is just doing a bad thing for someone else’s sake? And what if a person killed someone bad for justice? These kind of thing can get me distracted enough to be not listening in class!

        Have you heard of the dating scandal between Jung Kyung Ho and Sooyoung? I feel so bad for not knowing Jung Kyung Ho before the scandal because he seems like a very good actor and he looks very hot as well;D

        I like when I watch a drama not expecting anything but ends up discovering a gem! It is like that for me in I Hear You Voice. Have you seen that drama? It is kinda about morality as well with whether or not truth should always be revealed.

  2. Ah I should definitely start commenting on other blogs as well! Connect with others in the community. ;]

    Oh wow, that class sounds pretty interesting! The only philosophy class I took was Bioethics. We talked a lot about difficult topics such as abortion, euthansia, etc. Made me think a lot about right and wrong, and shades of gray. Though, sometimes it is hard to put what I think exactly into words. XD

    Ah yes, I heard about that! I actually kinda like actors or idols dating. Makes them more human, you know? We put them on pedestals, but they are people first. Sometimes I’m really sad when netizens blow up a scandal and the actors / idols feel so much pressure that the relationship falls apart. But then again, that’s the entertainment world, eh? Seems like everyone is getting hitched these days!

    Same here! It is so exciting when you discovering something truly wonderful! Yup I saw that drama! I really enjoyed it and the morality message as well! Lee Jong Suk was really good in School 2013 as well! It’s not like Heirs, but a school drama that feels like something we might have went through. I swear I bawled my eyes out in some parts.

    Also, have you seen Bridal Mask? That has to be one of my most favorite dramas. I hadn’t discovered Joo Won until that drama, and OMGGGG. BINGO. I have never seen better acting, so raw!

    • We talked about abortion and euthanasia as well! It is a topic that I have to seriously think through because I actually want to be a doctor when I grow up. In Ireland, the country I live in, abortion is illegal under every circumstances. A woman died because she wasn’t allowed to abort even when there was absolutely no chance that the baby will live. The doctors had to wait for the baby to die before they can treat the mother but it was already too late:( The law in Ireland is now changed to abortion is allowed only under some circumstances but it still upset me the way it costs a life for them to realize what to do. I agree with you about being able to put your thoughts into words! It happens to me all the time and that’s why sometimes it takes me ages to reply or write a post!

      I like the actors dating as well. You know the way sometimes you are so engrossed in an OTP that you wish they date in real life? Yea~ it happened to me with Queen Inhyun’s Man’s Boong Do and Hee Jin. I still can’t believe that they are dating! I feel so bad whenever I read about a scandal that a celebrity is dating, I feel like I’m intruding their privacy but at the same time, I want to know about them.

      I’ve seen School 2013 and I love Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Suk! Their love and hate relationship is just so well portrayed and I love that the drama explores the real life situations of high school students. It is just so real and it is definitely a drama I can relate to. I cried a lot in that drama as well! I think Woo Bin and Jong Suk wouldn’t have to go through the break up if Jong Suk has the reading thoughts ability in this drama. I mean it’s sad that Woo Bin wanted Jong Suk to be there to support him when he broke his leg and can’t play football anymore while Jong Suk believes that Woo Bin would hate to see him and decides to run away because of his guilt T^T

      I haven’t seen Bridal Mask because I’m not really into the 1930’s kind of set. It is the same reason why I haven’t start Inspiring Generation and the Reply series. I might want to check it out since you have such a positive feedback. I can’t wait to talk about it with you then! I already know Joo Won from King of Baking, Kim Takgu, Grade 7 Civil Servant and Good Doctor though. I love him in both of the dramas and especially Good Doctor! Joo Won plays a doctor with autism and I think he is extremely brave for choosing that role since it is very controversial. I love Joo Won as and actor but he is an amazing singer too! He is acting in a musical (called Ghost) and I didn’t know that until he went on a show called A Song For You. You can check out the song he sings here:

      • Oh neat! Abortion and euthanasia is such a complicated issue. Gosh, that law sounds really harsh. Yeah, it’s as if they don’t care what happens to the mother, treating her only as a vessel. But I’m glad it has exceptions now for the better health of both mother and fetus. I’m on my way to get my BSN (nursing) and I want to become a CRNA or neonatal NP in the future. Same same, sometimes my words don’t come out the way I want them too. XDD That’s why I’m always so quiet in my philosophy class, too slow to respond before someone else done unfortunately.

        Hahahaha, yeah I know right? That chemistry in the drama, we wish it would transfer into real life! I’ve always liked the Song Joon Ki and Moon Chae Won pairing that was in Nice Guy. But then again, the kind of romances I like to watch are more on the dysfunctional side….so I dunno about the validity of that that. Hahaha. Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae from My Girl were pretty cute together too! Yeah, the entertainment industry makes such a big deal if a pair are dating. Just imagine being followed on your dates…by fans and paparazzi! EEEK. But it is cute to read about them!

        WAHHHHH yay! Another person who has watched School 2013! Hardly anyone watches that one because of the lack of a major romantic plotline I suppose. I love bromance! Gosh, it was so epic, on par with the romantic lines I’ve watched in other dramas, seriously! Everytime Woo Bin and Jong Suk cried, I did too! They are best friends in real life which is real cool I think. Bet this drama cemented their friendship even more! Oh ahhaa, yeah, Jong Suk would have had such a easier time if he could read thoughts. They had only each other to rely on, the poor boys. Woo Bin’s life fell apart after he lost Jong Suk and soccer, he even went to jail when he had originally tried so hard to keep Jong Suk out of it. I really wish I had the type of teachers portrayed in the drama though. They seem to really care about the wellbeing of the kids.

        Ohhh I see! I haven’t watched Reply though, not sure I like that era dramas. I enjoy the 1920’s era, like that jazzy, noir, feel. And the costumes, wow I would really love to wear some of those clothes. Plus, the 1920’s+, so many issues, especially internationally. A mess between the Asian countries of Japan, China, and Korea. I think that is why I enjoy both Bridal Mask and Inspiring Generation, they capture the passion of that period.

        I’ve seen Good Doctor as well! It was a unique storyline in my opinion! Joo Won is a man of many talents! What I like best about him is that he isn’t afraid to try challenging, unique, and controversial roles. He really throws his entire being into playing those characters! His repertoire is so diverse! From Kim Takgu, to a bumbling civil servant, an autistic doctor, and Japanese officer/turned independence fighter. I heard he was really brave for taking the main role for Bridal Mask since the drama is really controversial because of the sensitive issues surrounding the Japan and Korea back then. Originally other A-list actors turned it down for fear of losing a fan base in Japan. However, he put his neck out there and man, I can never seen anyone else in this role. Oh yes, and his wonderful singing! That is a nice clip you linked! I saw this clip he sang in 1N2D, Snow Flower? His voice is really lovely.

        What other types of dramas do you like to watch?

  3. I enjoyed your thoughts about this drama. I agree that it was an underrated drama that was missed by the radar, but I highly recommend this drama if only you like dark and suspense drama. I haven’t really met anyone that like these kind of dramas so I can never share my thoughts. So I’m glad that I came upon your page and see that you also enjoyed this drama as much as I did. I watched this drama for Jung Kyung Ho because I loved him in Ja myung Go.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me! I am glad I found another person who likes these kinds of dramas as well. The noir like cinematography is really amazing in this drama. And of course Jung Kyung Ho really made an impression! What is Ja myung Go about?

      • Ja Myung Go is one drama that left me very confused and I was really conflicted with my feelings for about a week.
        Long story short, 2 half-sister born on the same day. Per the shaman, one is to save the kingdom the other is to destroy the kingdom. So the 2nd wife had to kill her baby because everyone believes that her daughter is the one to destory the kingdom but the mom couldn’t kill her baby. So she and the her maid, shipped the baby on boat with the maid’s son. Eventually several years later, the good daughter comes to realize that she is one of the princess. Jung Kyung Ho plays the prince from the enemy state. He falls in love with the good sister. However, the good sister has a good heart (of course) and even though she loves Jung Kyung ho, she couldn’t betray her kingdom. The bad sister eventually marries Jung Kyung Ho because she loves him and for the contract. (like always in dramas that they will be frenemy between countries) That’s not the case and Jung Kyung Ho’s country wants to take over their country and the bad sister betrays her kingdom while the good sister tries to protect the kingdom.
        Go watch it and then share your thoughts. I can’t wait to share my thoughts. I had to watch it the 2nd time to understand Jung Kyung Ho’s feelings and actions.

      • Oh Wow! that sounds really interesting actually! I think I will watch that while I’m watching Full Sun! I like watching two dramas at once, usually one airing and one already out. Tempers my pace. But yes, More Jung Kyung Ho!

  4. Let me know what you think about Full Sun. I didn’t really watch it but I skip or sorta followed it without really watching it. If that makes sense. But I did read recaps about it and….. I can’t pick up a melodrama right now because I’m still recovering from Secret and Heartless City. It takes a while for me to pick up other melodramas.

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