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Massawyrm says the awesome MAN FROM NOWHERE is the South Korean MAN ON FIRE!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. As many long time readers know, I’m a huge fan of Tony Scott’s badass 2004 paternal revenge film MAN ON FIRE – a raw, seething tale of a man with nothing, who finds a reason to live again thanks to a little girl put in his charge, only to watch that girl kidnapped before his eyes, setting him on a mission to fuck up everyone who was ever even tangentially involved in her abduction. So I was absolutely tickled to see that the South Koreans took a stab at making their own version of the film by ratcheting up the violence, tension and overall menace of the story in the box office hit MAN FROM NOWHERE. Those familiar with MAN ON FIRE will recognize its structure almost immediately as it follows a similar track – almost beat for beat – laying down its own version of ass whopping against a similarly dark organization. The film focuses upon a dark stranger who the locals refer to as the “Pawnshop Ghost”, a guy who rarely speaks and runs a low rent pawn business in the poor part of town. This man’s neighbor is a junkie exotic dancer with a spunky but adorable 8-year-old daughter in dire need of a father figure. The little girl hounds the stranger to the point of nuisance, but as the film goes on, he can’t help but be heartbroken by her situation, demeanor and desperate pleas for help. And when her mother crosses the wrong people, thugs show up to abduct the mother and daughter, right in front of this dark, brooding stranger who has tried very hard not to give a shit. Then, as the girl cries out for him to save her, he begins to realize just how important she’s become to him. When he discovers she’s been thrown into a pool of children whose organs are being harvested for the black market, he loses his shit and sets out to kill everyone who might be involved in the girl’s abduction and subsequent harvesting. You can assume the kind of carnage that comes next. Unlike MAN ON FIRE, MAN FROM NOWHERE spends a good amount of time with the cops tracking both the organization committing the horrendous crimes as well as the movements and crimes of the stranger – whom they suspect of somehow being involved with the gang. As his motives begin to deviate wildly from the organizations, they become the source of our exposition into who this man is, why he is acting the way does and just how far he is willing to go. While this film feels an awful lot like its predecessor, there are a number of things that are wildly different about it, making it a very much worth seeking out. The violence for one is radically different. Denzel’s menace was that he was incredibly smart and lured each man out separately before torturing the information out of him. The Pawnshop Ghost is more of an investigator who gets the information himself and gets into ruthless, bloody martial arts fights, gunfights and foot-chases that are more the style of Asian cinema than those with America sensibilities. It is positively furious, with a number of high octane, rapid fire, action set-pieces that never fail to deliver. Meanwhile, it has a dastardly sense of dark humor, the likes of which we’ve really begun to see come out of the post-Park South Korea. However, South Korean film has a tendency to run a little long, eschewing the shorthand American films have perfected and instead carefully developing and explaining everything that is happening. Even the very best South Korean films tend to leave American audiences wishing it had been trimmed by 10, 15 or even 20 minutes. MAN FROM NOWHERE is the first South Korean film in quite some time that I’ve seen that operates at a breakneck, relentless speed, never taking the time rest and allowing us to only briefly catch our breath before exploding again into fits of carefully orchestrated mayhem, martial arts and vicious revenge. Everything about this film works, especially its emotional through-line that makes you really care for this delightfully obnoxious little urchin and the detached stranger she clings to so desperately; it is surprising how well their few small, quiet moments together really make you want to watch him beat the living shit out of anyone who has touched so much as a hair on her head. MAN FROM NOWHERE gave me a broad smile about 20 minutes in and refused to wipe it from my face for the entirety of the runtime. It immediately became my very favorite film of the festival as well as one of my favorites of the year. Asian film fans and action fans in general owe it to themselves to seek this movie out at their earliest opportunity. An incredibly bad ass foray into paternal instinct revenge, this is one of those films that pays off again and again –eliciting 4 or 5 applause points from the audience for its audacity and inventiveness - and may well be the very best action film of the year. See this as soon as possible.
Until next time friends, Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:48 a.m. CST


    by TheUmpireStrokesBach

    Just fuckin with you.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:50 a.m. CST

    so it's over-edited and shitty?

    by Jarek

    Just sayin'. I'm not usually one to go for the direct attack or "troll" stance, but the last thing I am is a fan of 'Man on Fire'. Taking a pretty good performance by Denzel Washington in an alright story, then cutting it like a bad NIN video, does not a good movie make. I wish Tony Scott would go back to the restraint he had with True Romance.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:54 a.m. CST

    Let's Not Forget Domino

    by Aquatarkusman

    Also produced during the full blossom of Tony Scott's epileptic seizure camera technique.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:56 a.m. CST

    so Dakota Fanning...

    by MamboMan

    is Korean??? who knew?

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Man on Fire was disappointing

    by Phimseto

    As I've said before, Man on Fire is 3/4 crap. The first 50% is treacle with the family and kid. The good 50-75% is the hunt, and then the last 25% is melodrama. Consider Commando, which deals with the 3/4 stuff in its opening credits and then dedicates the rest of its film to the good 25%.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 8:01 a.m. CST

    yeah, what Jarek said


    was just talking to a buddy about the "True Romance" and "The Last Boy Scout" Tony Scott. WTF happened to HIM? As for This movie, I NEED the import Blu-ray in my life, yesterday. South Korean Cinema has been on a hot streak for a while now IMO

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Feel Like I've Seen It

    by BeyondStatic

    Good parallel with Man on Fire, looks identical. Love the new graphic! NOOOOOOOOO!

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 8:30 a.m. CST

    hi how are you

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  • Sept. 28, 2010, 9:21 a.m. CST

    looking at this trailer....

    by Jarek

    That's where the Man on Fire comparison really falls apart. This actually looks well directed.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 10:12 a.m. CST

    Sounds like a total must see

    by AsimovLives

    And i love that most korean movies do spent time building mood and tension by going slower paced then the american movies. Seems that Massa is complaining that korean movies are not edited like some Mickey Bay bullshit. If he can't appreciate how korean movies are edited, he has a lot ot learn about movies yet. A hell of a lot.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 10:31 a.m. CST


    by lilygreen

    I strongly recommend ______ Blackwhiteflirts*c0m ______ to you where I just found my interracial boyfriend! You know it is a great place to meet black men and beautiful women. What's kind of relationship do you want?

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Is it good enough

    by HapaPapa72

    That Americans will remake the Korean remake of the American movie? Has that ever been done before?

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 11:28 a.m. CST

    I want to see this NOW!

    by kLkL

    When can we expect this to hit shelves or a theater?

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 11:29 a.m. CST

    Man on Fire Really Wsnt that Good

    by Crow3711

    Sorry, but you all need to get over that one. It's manipulative crap, and Tony Scott completely sucks at directing.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 12:21 p.m. CST

    Someone tell Tony

    by DrGoodspeed

    to stop stealing his brother's music.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 1:09 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    <p>Aquatarkusman. Rewatch Domino with the understanding that it is a movie Narrated by a protagonist who is still tripping on Mescaline while telling her story (the movie) to the police. I think it will make a lot more sense and the editing will pay off in completely different ways.</p>

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 1:11 p.m. CST

    Crow3711, you are right

    by Massawyrm 1

    The 75,000 IMDB voters that have rated it a 7.7 are way off the mark. We're wrong, you're right. Sorry for the confusion. I'll stop loving that movie as soon as possible.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 1:50 p.m. CST

    I hope Korean films don't develop the "American shorthand".

    by Knuckleduster

    Their thoughtful pacing is one of the reasons I love Asian (especially Korean) cinema. As far as I'm concerned the great modern Korean films like Bad Guy, A Bittersweet Life, The Chaser and Memories of Murder are perfectly paced. No need to Americanize them. <p> I like a film that takes its time and uses that time to enrich the experience. Hell, it still pisses me off when people say that There Will Be Blood or The Assassination of Jesse James "would have been better if only they trimmed it a bit." Horsenuts, I say. Horsenuts.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 1:52 p.m. CST


    by Zatoichi

    The main charater looks like he would be perfect to play Spike for the Cowboy Bebob movie. I wonder if he knows any English? Then again it might be cool if the did Spike speaking Koeran with subtiles and have the rest of the cast understand him and only speak English back to him.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 1:53 p.m. CST

    *Bebop not Bebob

    by Zatoichi

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 2:26 p.m. CST

    So will Hollywood remake this starring Keanu Reeves?

    by CodeName

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 3:06 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    I mostly agree with you. One of the problems is that some of these films often repeat information or emotional beats in order to make sure the audience gets it, rather than trusting them to understand what they're saying or doing. I love THIRST, but feel that the final scene with the car is a bit much. We get what he's doing and prolonging it only lessens the emotional impact of the ending we know is coming. Three beats there would have worked instead of something like seven. I love a slow, carefully developed film - which is why I'm a big fan of South Korean cinema. That said, not everyone is, and those who feel these movies run long will find this far leaner. That's all I'm saying.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 3:39 p.m. CST

    This review should of been trimmed by a few lines

    by Arturo

    Film sounds good though, i will check it out..

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 4:03 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    <p>Ha! Touche.</p> <p>I guess - especially with knuckleheads like Asimovlives running around - that I don't trust the audience enough. =P </p>

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 4:50 p.m. CST

    More badass Korean martial arts/action movies

    by kLkL

    List 'em! I fell in love with A Bittersweet Life.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 5:08 p.m. CST


    by nukeboy1970

    You have to add one more remake in there. The Denzel Washington movie was itself a remake of late 80's movie staring Scott Glenn as Creasy.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 5:40 p.m. CST


    by chainsaw_shawn

    Where can i get this on dvd? I like the way he reloads guns. he means business.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:45 p.m. CST

    Man on Fire

    by D o o d

    is completely over rated. It is style over content!

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:53 p.m. CST

    Transformers Has A 7.3

    by Crow3711

    So no offense, I love ya mass, love your reviews, it's not like it was a personal attack, which is why it's kind of annoying you're reply is so snarky, but realy, going to imdb to back yourself up doesn't help. 7.7 is wholly average in my opinion. Some people talk about man on fire like it's a classic, or even one of denzels best. And you use a 7.7 as evidence? And then your defending Domino, too? I think you have more of an irrational love for Tony Scott than I do for taking a small verbal shit on man fire. So all due respect my man, but back off.

  • Sept. 28, 2010, 7:54 p.m. CST

    Than I do Irrational hatred*

    by Crow3711

  • Sept. 29, 2010, 12:05 p.m. CST

    the best knife fight scene ever

    by theajushi

    this movie is everything man on fire should have been. This is very much a bloodier updated Professional. The knife fight at the denouement is incredible, which includes an awesome and unique first person view knife fight.