A big summer hit in Korea, The Man from Nowhere is a well-plotted action-thriller made with energy, taste and heart, a guilt-free pleasure, which marks Won Bin’s transition from “kid-brother” roles to centre-stage. (He played the son in Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother.) At the start, Cha Tae-Shik is a shadowy figure, hiding from the world as the half-hearted owner of a small pawnshop in the Yongsan district of Seoul; his only human contact is with his neighbours: a sleazy nightclub dancer and her neglected young daughter So-Mi (played by Kim Sae-Ron, the kid from orphan-drama A Brand New Life). When these neighbours are kidnapped by psychotic gangsters, on the trail of some stolen heroin, Tae-Shik rediscovers his mojo as a Bourne-like figure trained as a fearless killing machine by the Korean equivalent of the CIA. He finds himself up against some seriously nasty guys (child slave labour, organ harvesting from innocent victims, you name it) but finds the inner strengths – and the emotional drive – to keep fighting. Writer-director Lee Jeong-Beom comes up with some great characters and lines (you gotta love the tetchy drug-lord who’s nostalgic for the days of military dictatorship), but his best achievement is the blend of motion and emotion in a blur of speed. –Tony Rayns
You live only for tomorrow. The ones that live for tomorrow, get fucked by the ones living for today. I only live for today. I'll show you just how fucked up that can be.
It's like Leon but full of dull boring characters, and a bunch of action cliches. Won Bin is not a bad actor, but he's clearly working with very limited material here.