I do have a soft spot for underdog stories, but to be completely honest with you, the main reason I was interested to check out this movie, is because Wi Ha Joon plays an MMA champion in this.
A chance to see Wi Ha Joon being a skilled badass? YES PLEASE! 🤩
Ok, but as a bonus, this movie works out to be a solid underdog story, so it does have more merit, than simply having Wi Ha Joon play an MMA champ. 😁
Psst: Link to watch is at the end of the review!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Cha Woo Sol (Kim Min Seok), a victim of school violence, ends up in prison because of an unexpected incident. There, he meets MMA champion Jung Do Hyun (Wi Ha Joon).
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. There is a fair amount of blood and violence.
I suppose it almost goes without saying, given our premise, but I thought I should mention it anyway.
There is blood and violence in this, and a good amount of that violence is unprovoked. It’s basically bullies being bullies, y’know?
Which means that some of the scenes are rather hard and painful to watch. Thinking of it as necessary context for our story helps.
2. This feels more like an origin story than a full story.
Without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say that while Show deals with Woo Sol’s bully in this story, our ending leans open-ended. I think keeping that in mind would help.
A sequel of this movie, in the form of a drama, is being discussed, but is not confirmed.
STUFF I LIKED
Kim Min Seok as Woo Sol
It’s kind of incredible that, at 32 years of age, Kim Min Seok can still plausibly play a high schooler, but he really pass fairly credibly for a teenager, thanks to his small stature.
More importantly, I thought Kim Min Seok does a great job of portraying all of Woo Sol’s emotions, from crippling fear, to plaintiveness, to nervousness, to dogged determination. Woo Sol’s emotions really form the heart of this story, and Kim Min Seok grounds it all very well.
I also appreciated the fact that even as Woo Sol gains strength and skill to defend himself, his core nature, of being polite and staying as unintrusive as possible, remains intact.
He really isn’t trying to use his fight skillz to lord it over others; he’s really just trying to live his life, like he tells Do Hyun.
Wi Ha Jun as Do Hyun
I signed up for this movie because of Wi Ha Joon, and I was not disappointed.
To my eyes, Wi Ha Joon is very believable as a skilled MMA fighter, who is as efficient with his fight moves, as he is restrained with his words. So basically, the strong, silent type who can take you out with a single move, maybe two, but only when provoked.
I did find Do Hyun’s backstory a little random, in that those intruders at his mother’s house, breaking in and killing his sister (and presumably his mother too), felt like they came out of nowhere.
We don’t find out if Do Hyun had been targeted because of his identity as an MMA champion, but it all just feels like such a senseless reversal of fortunes, to my eyes.
Poor Do Hyun. Why did he have to lose everyone and everything, in the twinkling of an eye? 😭
Woo Sol and Do Hyun together
Woo Sol’s connection with Do Hyun was THE relationship I was looking forward to the most, in this story, and Show delivers reasonably well.
I feel like the chance encounter on the bus, leading up to the chance encounter in the prison, and then to Woo Sol’s earnest request, for Do Hyun to teach him how to be strong, is decently organic.
I could believe that through these various incidents, Do Hyun would start to believe in Woo Sol’s sincerity, and start to see his determination, enough to agree to be Woo Sol’s mentor.
I liked the fact that Do Hyun even requests for Woo Sol to be transferred to be his cellmate, so that he would be able to train Woo Sol all the time, basically. With that kind of training intensity, I can believe that given a bit of time, Woo Sol becomes a lot stronger.
I also really like the little spots of affection and consideration that we see between Do Hyun and Woo Sol, particularly when they’re sharing their meals.
That kind of bromantic affection, is something I really would have loved more of.
Instead, Show keeps this relationship on the rather gruff side of things, where most feelings remain unspoken, and actions speak louder than words.
Still, I lapped up any and all indications that these two cared about each other, beyond their training agreement.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I was pretty sad to see Do Hyun get transferred, because I just wanted him and Woo Sol to keep training together, and being friends and brothers forever, but the truth is, it’s a necessary step in his journey, for Woo Sol to learn to stand on his own.
I think that’s why Do Hyun let him go, that time that the boys from Maintenance come to ask for him, even though it’s a thinly veiled effort to get him before the big bully dude, who’s had it out for Woo Sol, even since Woo Sol had accidentally kicked during that soccer match.
I feel that even at this point, Do Hyun understands that he can’t protect Woo Sol forever, and that Woo Sol needs to face his demons – and his bullies – on his own.
All the fighting’s pretty brutal, but I have to admit that it was pretty gratifying to see Woo Sol emerge victorious, partly due to sheer grit and determination, to never give up.
That alliance that his group forms with the bullies is even kind of cute, towards the end of his prison sentence.
But of course, Woo Sol still has Seok Chan (Jung Won Chang) waiting for him, after his release from prison.
Gah. Jung Won Chang’s just too good at playing these entitled bully types; I’m starting to brace for bullying behavior now, whenever he appears on my screen. 😅
It makes sense that Seok Chan won’t let Woo Sol go without a fight, since Woo Sol had literally poked his eye out and put an end to his boxing career.
And of course, it makes sense that a a bully like Seok Chan wouldn’t take into account that he’d been the one who’d provoked Woo Sol first, and had literally baited him, to poke him in the eye. 🙄
AND, it also makes sense that when Woo Sol asks Seok Chan why Seok Chan hates him so much, Seok Chan doesn’t even have an answer for him. Bullies just like to bully, after all.
This fight is as bloody and violent as all the other ones that’ve come before, but I have to say, that moment when Seok Chan flinched, when anticipating Woo Sol’s oncoming blow, was extremely gratifying.
That was the moment when I felt like Woo Sol had won, because for once, Seok Chan was afraid of him, and not the other way around.
I have no idea whether this is enough to get Seok Chan to call it even, and leave Woo Sol alone for good, but at least now we know that Woo Sol is more than able to stand up against Seok Chan, if necessary.
That’s important, and I think, that’s the point of this story.
It’s less about whether Woo Sol will still meet bullies in his life, and more about whether he’s overcome his fears and his own weakness enough, to be strong and stand tall, to face whatever or whomever stands in his way, head-on, as he continues his journey.
I’m really glad that we still get a glimpse of Do Hyun, in the last leg of our story.
It’s quite satisfying to see that he’s started training someone else, at the new prison. It feels like this might have become a bit of a mission for him, to equip the weak to fight for themselves.
And, I’m so glad to see Woo Sol visit Do Hyun as well, because this tells me that their friendship is likely to continue for the long-term.
Gosh, how great would it be, if Do Hyun and Woo Sol would eventually start a fight school together, to help the weak and bullied find their strength, and their voices? That would be awesome.
I have no idea if they’re considering that as part of the sequel, but I’d be so down for that! 🤩
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A reasonably solid underdog story.
FINAL GRADE: B+
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out the show on iQIYI (VIP).
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