Review: Ajeossi (The Man From Nowhere, 2010)

the man from nowhere

I’m from Berkeley, which is kind of nowhere!

Written By: Jeong-beom Lee
Directed By: Jeong-beom Lee

A little past the hour mark in Ajeossi the hero, or antihero if you will, of our adventure finds himself cornered by the police. He attempts at first to fight his way out, but realizes rather quickly that he’s out numbered. He then zeroes in on a glass window at the end of the hallway and runs towards said window, breaks through the glass, and lands outside so that he can live to fight another day. Jeong-beom Lee does an interesting thing with that sequence, he chooses to follow Cha, our antihero, with his camera as he runs, breaks through the glass, and lands. Seonsaeng Lee keeps the camera up close and tight, right behind Cha, so much so that I felt like I was running with Cha. And that’s exactly what happens, as Cha runs the camera moves with him, as he breaks the glass we break the glass, and as he lands and obtains freedom so do we. This sequence is exhilarating, full of energy and verve. There’s a rawness on display in the way Seonsaeng Lee films the window breaking sequence, a rawness that serves Ajeossi well throughout the entire film.

Ajeossi is an uneven film, the sentimentality that serves as the heart of the film never quite feels like it belongs. There’s also a fair bit of corny dialogue and line delivery. The plot of the film is very contrived, and there’s almost never any doubt over where the film is going or what the final outcome will be. Saying all of this, Ajeossi is a darn great film. It’s able to overcome its many flaws with the energy Seonsaeng Lee brings to the film. The destination is known, so is the journey in a lot of ways, but the steps taken along the journey always feel fresh and exciting.

That’s the energy I spoke of earlier, and it truly does permeate the film. There’s a beatdown that takes place inside of a heroin, or maybe meth, lab. The main bad guy in that sequence has a gas mask on the entire time he is getting thrashed about. There’s a reason behind the gas mask, but it’s the uniqueness of the gas mask that really sells the scene. There’s something interesting and unique about watching a guy in a gas mask get his ass handed to him. Ajeossi is full of scenes, sequences, and moments just like the gas mask beatdown. The energy that the film exudes is one of filmic exploration, where the people behind the film are doing everything they can to make the film compelling and gripping to counteract the traditional nature of the story.

Seonsaeng Lee’s film is really nothing more than a revenge tale. It’s been a staple of film, specifically genre and exploitation cinema, for years and years. There’s nothing wrong with a well done revenge tale, with the caveat that it be well done. Ajeossi is certainly well done and it approaches its traditional revenge tale from unique vantage points. The action never feels tired and played out, and the rawness of the film only helps to enhance the experience of watching the film. Ajeossi isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything like that, but when it’s on it is very on. Revenge tastes sweet when it is presented in dynamic fashion, and such is the case with Ajeossi.




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