My Beautiful Bride: Gone Girl

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The Kdrama gods have shown their mercy. I finally found English subs for My Beautiful Bride. Another brilliant grungy OCN crime production that has me spellbound. This story follows the tragic underworld of loan sharking combined with organ harvesting. Cha Yoon Mi, a female detective, chases the Shadow leader of the organ harvesting operation and finally puts the leader Son Hak Soo away for 10 years with the help of an insider. However, the informant, who happens to be the past lover of Son Hak Soo, disappears after the man she betrayed was put into jail. Meanwhile, Kim Do Hyung, a seemingly straight-laced no nonsense (or fun) bank manager leads a nondescript life with his beautiful girlfriend, Yoon Joo-Young. Manager Kim is a very strict about managing the company’s money and isn’t the kind of guy that plays around. He is the type that would rather send a cake than take a client out for drinks and girls. He loves riding his bicycle everyday and didn’t find meaning in life until he met Joo-Young. Joo-young fell for him at first sight and hoped to get close to him. However, she turned out to be the disappeared informant of the organ harvesting operation. She wanted to start her life anew with this handsome manager. Luckily things worked out between them and they lived together for two years. He even proposed marriage at the expense of his richer household. However, she is hesitant about marrying him at first since he knows nothing of her past. One day, as he is riding home to her for dinner, she gets a mysterious phone call that sends her running. Joo-young disappears and Do Hyung has no way of finding her. She even left her wedding ring, but there were no signs of forced entry. Driven to the police station, he lists her as a missing person and attracts the attention of Yoon Mi who recognizes her past informant’s face. An investigation starts as Hak Soo is released from prison on parole. Do Hyung gets entangled with the unsavory loan shark organization as his investigates by himself. We also get to see his past military history where he was part of a special division of marines that traveled from N.Korea and back, meaning super badass fighter. Unfortunately, he gets caught by cops while chasing the leader of a loan shark group. What really astounds everyone else is that he happens to also have the frozen corpse of Hak Soo in his trunk.

I love it. Another dark goody from OCN. It seems now a days, all these badass detectives or leading fighters were part of some special division during their military service. Take Bummie from Hidden Identity for example! Not that I’m complaining! Anyways, while the three main leads are not from the famous group of actors, I find their acting pretty decent. Kim Moo Yul, plaing Do Hyung, is a new face to me. A little stiff, but that may be part of his super stiff character, and military background? With Joon Young captured, we probably won’t see too much of her unless she pops up somewhere else. Ko Sung Hee has been a hit or miss for me, but its a hit so far. As for Lee Si Young, she is looking amazing, beautiful, and even more improved since her BOF days. I very much enjoy strong female characters and she definitely shows it as the leader of the investigations. The filming is also great, juxtapositioning the main couple’s dreamy courtship and the grungy reality of debt paying. Awesome series to follow!

Check out this amazing OST !

Hidden Identity: Angels in a Demon’s Mask

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A thousand times yes! My special craving for crime thrillers has been fulfilled yet again. Interestingly enough, TVN takes a leaf out of OCN’s book and produces a grungy noir piece. Cha Gun Woo plays a broody detective who has suffered a lot of traumas in his career. As a man of few words, others find it hard to work with him. However, he has a warm heart and holds his friends dear. Unfortunately, on a stakeout, Gun Woo loses his partner of 6 years and falls into a deeper state of depression. He also blames himself for the death of his girlfriend a few years past when she became involved in one of his investigations. His sunbae, Tae In, is the brother of the dead girlfriend and threw himself into undercover work in a gang in order to find out who killed her. When Tae In became exposed, Gun Woo was called in to also become undercover in order to find where Tae In was being tortured. Gun Woo plays a gambler who would do anything for money and gets recruited by the gang. He becomes part of the gang’s scheme to steal the hologram for Seoul’s new printed money. Although reluctant, Gun Woo joins the team in order to repay his debt to Tae In and find his girlfriend’s killer. In a moment of moral conflict, Gun Woo had to “kill” Tae In in front of the gang in order to keep his cover as a cop. Luckily, each cop has a molar installed with medicine that will put them into a coma instead. Tae In survived the stabbing that he actually initiated so that Gun Woo would not have to pull the first move. Although Gun Woo is exposed after the hologram code is stolen, he continues to participate in the investigation team.

Color me surprised when pretty Kim Bum transforms himself into gritty Gun Woo. In the past I have always remembered him as the pretty playboy type who has the most gorgeous smile. What a change here! Barely saying a few lines each episode, he conveys all his emotions through his expressions. I never realized how expressive he could be and how well he plays the angst angle. His crew cut, mustache, and broody air really changes him completely. I also enjoy how this series has a strong female character who really kicks arse, multiple arse by herself! Although I wished he would be undercover longer as I love seeing double agent tropes, the story must move on! I feel like this is a great career move to play this variety of character for Kim Bum. Coming from the team of Bad Guys, the fighting choreography is also on point. With brilliant moves that gets my blood pumping! This is definitely my top drama to watch right now!

Man on High Heels:

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I must say this was a very interesting movie. It was something that I passed the first time around, but came back due to Cha Seung Won’s acting reputation. The movie juxtaposes two very different topics, homicide crime and transgenderism. Cha Seung Won plays Ji-Wook, a revered homicide detective whose reputation is the “manliest of all men”. The gangster world is completely afraid of him and his fighting prowess. We are treated to multiple excellently choreographed fight scenes where Ji-Wook bests 20+ men with minimal injuries. Fan-service provides us with a beautiful view of his chiseled body with multiple scars from his various fights.

However, slowly we learn that this is just on the surface. Starting from his childhood, he had fallen with his best friend, who happened to be a boy. As much as he loved this other boy, he could not accept himself socially and emotionally. This other boy opened his eyes to love and broadened his view of the world. Their relationship ended tragically as the other boy committed suicide and left behind a sister.

Fast forward to the present, Ji-Wook secretly keeps a watch over the younger sister and protects her. He is reminded much of his childhood friend through her. Everyday he eternally fights with the “woman” inside him, wanting to change his sex, but still afraid to. With guidance under a transgender woman, who shows him the realities of undergoing the surgeries and life afterwards, he is still willing to go through them to reveal his true self. He quits his detective job and resists the gangster world’s bribe for him to join them.

Unfortunately, the gangsters do not give up and kill one of his good cop buddies and kidnaps the sister just as he was about to board the plane for his surgeries. He decides to go back and try to rescue the sister. He fights his way through the millions of minions and manages to best the leader. All is well ends well….except the ending. The ending was kind of disappointing for me, but also makes a little sense I suppose.

Let’s talk about this ending. So after all that angst and internal conflict, you would have expected him to go through the surgeries to reveal his true self in the end right? Maybe that is my idealistic thinking and what I wanted for Ji-Wook for his peace of heart. He had pushed himself so hard to be masculine because he thought it was wrong to feel like a woman. He even was able to walk in public for awhile in the feminine clothes he liked. Was it all for naught? Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where transgenderism is accepted. Remember Leela Alcorn, the transgender girl who was suppressed all her life and now Bruce Jenner who was held prisoner in her own flesh? Although the US is becoming more tolerant in these issues, it is still a slow process of equality. I feel like LGBTQ is even more socially unaccepted in Asia, with an exception in Thailand. Even then, transgenderism is still a taboo issue and not looked well upon in society. Now for Ji-Wook, is it because the movie showed the reality of life for transgender women who often cannot get decent jobs, that he decided not to get the surgeries? At the end, he is still the oppa on the outside to the sister and had even grown a beard. However, we see that dainty pinky raise at the end? I’ll take it as a open ending that he is just not ready yet to be his true self or what do you guys think?

As for Cha Seung Won’s acting, it is impeccable. After watching Best Love with him and Gong Hyo Jin, I had him in my mind as literally the manliest of all men. With his scruffy beard, husky voice, and amazing physique, he was a specimen to behold. I had never imagined him in this unique type of role. He portrayed a feminine side that I thought would be impossible for him. It was portrayed delicately and not in a flamboyant manner, thank god. The scenes where he reminisced to his past and his desperation from his internal conflict were really heartbreaking to watch. And wow, he was really pretty as well!

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.

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