K-drama ● Review: My Name
English Title: My Name
Korean Title: 마이네임
Director(s): Kim Jin-min
Screenwriter(s): Kim Ba-da
Studio: Netflix Released: 2021
Runtime: 8 episodes, 45m–58m each.
Starring: Han So-hee, Park Hee-soon, Ahn Bo-hyun, Kim Sang-ho
My Verdict: An action-thriller drama in which a young woman aims to avenge her gangster father’s death by infiltrating the police force. Think “revenge” K-drama version of Infernal Affairs with more action and violence.
● In 2016, high school student Yoon Ji-woo (Han So-hee) sees her gangster father murdered and so teams up with his gang so she can find the murderer. The gang is run by her father’s friend Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon). In a way, the series is basically another South Korean “revenge” drama.
● Ji-woo develops her skills for violence a little too quickly even though she has natural talent. Granted, it is a series of 8 episodes so one can’t take too long to get into the story but still, her development in the first two episodes can be handled better without ruining the pace.
● Mu-jin then organizes a new identity for Ji-woo in order to infiltrate the police force as an undercover. Not sure what the requirements are in South Korea given that she left school when her father was murdered. A new identity might give you a fake education but one presumably still has to pass certain tests in person. Anyway, at this point, the narrative jumps to the year 2021 where Ji-woo joins the narcotics department under Captain Cha Gi-ho (Kim Sang-ho). One either accepts the premise or not, and this is where the plot gets interesting.
● One can already see and expect some similarities to the HK film Infernal Affairs (2002), one of the main differences being that the undercover gangster rather than the undercover cop is the main viewpoint character.
● Consistent to the title, there is the question of who Ji-woo really is when more information is revealed regarding the circumstances of her father’s death. A thinking audience will go through the possibilities (including possible twists) and the writers have inserted just enough signposts to support any one of them. So, on a certain level, it is predictable but one is never quite certain. And, of course, some signposts that can be handled better but overall, it is sufficient.
● As with any show, there are cheesy moments from narrow escapes to some bad guy falling awkwardly to his death. And, as commonly found in K-dramas and films, there are the “run the gauntlet” or close-quarter fight scenes. Whilst some of these may feel a little contrived, the tight structure and pacing mitigate that feeling somewhat.
● The cinematography is generally well-executed, particularly the lighting with saturated colors to augment the mood. It doesn’t go as far as Tony Scott’s films but enough to work. The use of handheld in some fight scenes is excessive, comparable to The Bourne Supremacy (2004) which also tries too hard with the use of handheld whereas the other Bourne films are more tasteful and measured.
● All the performances are adequate, with nothing that particularly draws attention. And that’s not a bad thing. They are convincing and draw you into the story. As expected, veteran Park Hee-soon as Choi Mu-jin and Kim Sang-ho as Captain Cha Gi-ho play their respective roles with authority, the type that acts like they have boundaries but threatens to cross them at any time.
● Han So-hee does a commendable job with Ji-woo, mostly playing it cool and focused with her emotions barely hidden just beneath the surface. Occasionally, she does lose it emotionally. Probably more impressive is her physicality.
● In many respects, the characters follow a template: Choi Mu-jin is the gangster boss who tries to be sophisticated; Captain Cha Gi-ho is the seemingly vengeful cop; Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun) is the young, honest cop; Jung Tae-ju (Lee Hak-joo) is the quiet right-hand man of Mu-jin; Chang Ryul is the dangerous gangster who serves as an adversary of comparable age to Ji-woo; and Ji-woo herself is the outwardly cool lone-wolf protagonist. The character of Mu-jin mentions the classical theme of “predator and prey” and indeed, the major characters are both in their own way.
● Overall, despite some convenient and cheesy moments, it’s a decent series. Whilst it has some similarities to Infernal Affairs, it is more action-orientated and can use more cat-and-mouse to enhance the suspense and intellectual appeal. I know it’s trying to be dark and gritty but that can nonetheless take the psychological and intellectual approach. After all, with 8 episodes, there is plenty of screen time to do so. Still, the pacing manages to camouflage some of the weaknesses.
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