Saturday, April 9, 2011

A don't-miss DVDebut: Lee Jeong-beom's THE MAN FROM NOWHERE


Note: this is a revision of the post TrustMovies pub-lished yesterday. The IMDB, is indeed correct: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, that knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark crime-and-chase thriller, did have some U.S. theatrical play in the fall of 2010, despite my conclusion that this never hap-pened. Thanks to "John" (see com-ments below) and a helpful email I received from Rita Tse,  I stand corrected. So thank you, both. Which means that I certainly should have heard of this movie that was so unknown to me. Its viewer rating from the IMDB (now approaching 3,000 votes) is nearly eight stars out of ten --very good for this site--while its Netflix rating (from nearly 1,000 viewers) is even better: 4.3 stars out of a possible five.

Where did this film come from? Its writer/director Lee Jeong-beom has made only one other movie, Cruel Winter Blues (2006), which played some festivals but has never been given an American release (of this statement I am much more certain). Now,  with his second feature, this relatively young director (born in 1971 and shown at left) has given us a movie involving crime, murder, kidnapping and betrayal that outdoes much else (even via Korea) in the thriller genre, and at almost every level. Taking a packet of utterly conventional elements, Mr. Lee whips them together in ways that initially seem conventional, but are so speedily paced and handily executed that we follow along most happily. But then, as the plot progresses and events build and grow darker, the conventional turns in on itself and suddenly blooms into something more serious and mysterious. The humanity on display heightens, even as the deeds of the evil-doers turn increasingly nasty.

"Pawnshop Ghost and Garbage are the names people call us," notes the much put-upon heroine -- a little girl with a mom who's a drug-addicted stripper -- to our hero, above, a gaunt, wan young man who is the pawnshop part of the duo. Indeed he's got a history that he seems to be hiding. ("Pawnshop" is played by one of Korea's hottest stars: Won Bin, who was equally remarkable in last year's Mother.) When both mom and daughter (below) are sudden-ly kidnapped, the result of a thieves-rob-thieves heist we see at the film's beginning, this strange young man must go into action.

And what action this is! The filmmaker knows how to create moment-to-moment struggle, both man-on-man and man-on-group, so these scenes (there are a number of them) simply rivet. You don't want to blink. Everything else about this movie works just as well. Lee's ability with spare, meaningful dialog and rich visuals saturated with feeling and beauty brings his film that extra humanism that allows it to soar.

Lee's use of flashbacks to fill in history is probably the most conventional part of the film, yet even these possess extra weight. One scene, in fact, is staged so powerfully -- with equal amounts of suspense and shock -- that you may literally scream aloud. Even the movie's villains are given stature by virtue of their complicated characters, or sometime simply by their downright wretchedness. And child star Kim Sea-Ron fills her special role with such a memorable presence that she will capture you as surely as she does our Pawnshop.

Right now, this is a hard title to rent. Netflix and Greencine both have very long wait times for The Man From Nowhere, and Blockbuster, though it advertises the movie, also says that it is unavailable -- in NYC, at least, which, in addition to the Los Angeles area, is probably the prime rental spot (outside Korea itself) for this film. I was lucky enough to find the title at my local Jackson Heights video store, the only one left of the half dozen that were in operation when we moved here. It is also for rent, and available now, via Amazon. (I would recommend renting the High Def version for $3.99 from Amazon Instant Video.) You can always purchase the film, of course, then share it with all your friends until you feel you've gotten your money's worth. Either way, The Man From Nowhere is worth the wait -- no matter how long.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're wrong. This was released in theaters back in October 2010: http://editorq.com/2010/10/u-s-dates-for-the-man-from-nowhere/

Anonymous said...

hi, US theatricl release was Oct 1, 2010, in 19 theaters, grossed US$528,175.
http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=manfromnowhere.htm

john said...

Hi James,

(apologies if this is double-posted, blogger returned an error on my first attempt)

The longest run was 71 days at the CGV Cinema in LA (cgvcinemas.com), and it played 28 days in at least two other theaters (based on theater data I personally track). I'd copied the following listing from the website this fall (I checked and the listing is still there):

The Man from Nowhere
http://www.mannowhere.com/

9/30 - CVG/LA
10/08- Regal Edwards Cerritos Stadium 10 (Cerritos, CA)
10/15- Regal Cinemas Garden Grove Stadium 16 (Garden Grove, CA)
10/15- AMC Rolling Hills 20 (Torrance, CA)
10/15 – AMC Rolling Hills 20 (Torrance, CA)
10/15 – AMC Santa Anita 16 (Arcadia, CA)
10/15 – AMC Bay Terrace 6 (NY)
10/15 – AMC Empire 25 (NY)
10/15 – AMC Ridgefield Park 12 (NJ)
10/15 – AMC Rios 18 (D.C)
10/15 – AMC Cinemark Century 16 (Seattle – Federal Way)
10/15 – AMC Alderwood 16 (Seattle – Lynwood)
10/15 – AMC Cupertino 16 (SJ)
10/15 – AMC Discover Mills 18 (Atlanta)
10/15 – AMC Northbrook Court 14 (Chicago)
10/15 – AMC Showplace Niles 12 (Chicago)
10/15 – Alamo Drafthouse Lamar 6 (Austin)
10/15 – AMC Younge & Dundas 24 (Toronto)
10/15 – Cinemark (Vancouver) TBD!
10/29 – Consolidated Ward (Honolulu)

On an unrelated note, I love your review site and check it out on a regular basis.

Best regards,

John

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, John--
Thank you so much for this correction, the info from which I will now include in this post. I feel humbled that I missed not just seeing the film upon release but even hearing about it. And I wonder: How did so many of us New Yorkers, who try to keep up with wonderful little sleepers (in this country, at least; not in S. Korea, where it was a huge hit), so completely miss this one?

This is probably because, as a general rule over the past couple of years, we now have anywhere from 12 to 15 to 20 movies openings in NYC in a single week (sometimes on a single day: 17 of 'em opened here this past Friday), so not only can we not keep up with them viewing-wise, some of us can't even remember that they opened at all.

Thanks, too, for your comment about my site. It's appreciated, and I will keep trying.
Best regards back to you!
--Jim