Original Title: 무정도시 / Moojungdoshi / Cruel City
Country: South Korea
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.”