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K-drama ● Review: Rugal

English Title: Rugal

Korean Title: 루갈 [lit. dry tears]

Director(s): Kang Cheol-woo

Screenwriter(s): Do Hyun

Studio: LIAN Entertainment Released: 2020

Runtime: 16 episodes, 1h 12m – 1h 34m

Starring: Choi Jin-hyuk, Park Sung-woong, Jo Dong-hyuk, Jung Hye-in, Kim Min-sang, Park Sun-ho


My Verdict: Robocopped team tries to take down criminal organization. Overly simplistic and cheesy. Plot and characters lack dimension.


Rugal

● Based on the webtoon of the same name by Rel.mae, Rugal is the name of a secret crime-fighting team. The premise sounds like a cheesy comic book, which is fine in itself, but the problem is that everything about the story and its execution is also cheesy. I have not read the webtoon so this review is based purely on the show.


● Kang Ki-beom (Choi Jin-hyuk) is a cop who is after the gangster Hwang Deuk-goo (Park Sung-woong). Not surprisingly, Kang Ki-beom’s wife is murdered and he himself is almost killed, getting his eyes poked out. And, of course, he is framed for his wife’s death.


● Whilst in prison, he is recruited to join Rugal run by Chief Choi Geun-chul (Kim Min-sang). The team is based at some seemingly massive and modern aboveground facility that somehow remains a secret base. Kang Ki-beom is given new eyes. Apart from the chief and merely two techies who provide just about all types of support, there are three other agents who all have been Robocopped with the latest biotech. At least two of them had some cheesy connection to the criminal organization Argos which Hwang Deuk-goo is affiliated, so there is conveniently plenty of motivation to go after them.


Kang Ki-beom (Choi Jin-hyuk)
Kang Ki-beom (Choi Jin-hyuk)
Hwang Deuk-goo (Park Sung-woong)
Hwang Deuk-goo (Park Sung-woong)

● Accepting that such a small team like Rugal can operate with so little support, the team somehow does not know how to support each other. They tend to go out together when they shouldn’t or separate when they shouldn’t. One would think such a special team knows how to work itself out.


● Kang Ki-beom’s eyes have AI but the series does not truly explore the implications and its associated issues, merely using it as a device that cheaply acts as an obstacle. And although it is clear that the eyes give him exceptional analytical capabilities and therefore understandably improve reaction times, it is not explained how it gives him really cool fighting skills.


● The makers of the show simply try too hard to make action sequences look cool. Just because our heroes have biotech doesn’t mean it has to look like they are fighting in the Matrix.


● One can see that Kang Ki-beom’s teammates are meant to be significant to the series but they are merely cardboard characters. Kang Ki-beom himself is nothing special but he is a likable enough guy so one can still be interested to see how things turn out for him. Song Mi-na (Jung Hye-in) was a fellow cop who was almost killed but she is just there to look like the “cool chick” when more could be done. Chief Choi Geun-chul is the only person in the series who has some charisma and, in some moments, is a morally gray character. Unfortunately, this aspect is not taken advantage of.


Song Mi-na (Jung Hye-in)
Song Mi-na (Jung Hye-in)
Chief Choi Geun-chul (Kim Min-sang)
Chief Choi Geun-chul (Kim Min-sang)

● There are other villains around Hwang Deuk-goo with the usual scheming and infighting. There is even one who may be an undercover cop. Without needing to be complicated, there is so much potential to do something sufficiently intriguing but the series just fails to deliver. Park Sung-woong is quite scary as Hwang Deuk-goo and the others do a decent job, but the characters are written without dimension. Like the so-called good guys, the bad guys are set up quite simply, and there is nothing wrong with that in itself—the entire premise is simple—but the characters are just too simple and underused.


Rugal is ultimately a series that is over-simplistic and is on autopilot but, unfortunately, not in a way that works.

 

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