ockoala, I am in your eternal debt. If it wasn't for your post, I would have never checked out The Man From Nowhere (international title; Korean title is Ahjusshi) and thus would have missed which is probably going to be my favorite Korean film for some time to come.
Ahjusshi has a fairly simple set-up: a mysterious, quiet loner who runs a pawn shop in a bad part of town (Won Bin, about whom more below) befriends the young daughter of a neighbor. When the girl is taken by gangsters as a result of her mother's choices, the pawn shop owner decides to come out of his isolation and find her, transforming into a killing machine on the way. Clearly his past is a little complicated.
The set-up sounds fairly cliche but the execution is anything but. First, there is the gorgeous fluid visual style - most of the movie takes place in sordid, run-down surroundings but the way they are shot adds an extra vividness to every scene. The fight scenes (and there are many) are brilliantly done - brutal and to the point. But ultimately, the reason Ahjusshi really works and the reason I ended up crying more than once (yes, crying - go ahead and mock) is because underneath the action trappings, it's really a character study of a traumatized, broken person who rediscovers his purpose. Won Bin nails the role - he has next to no dialogue and his character is, obviously, not a very expressive person, but somehow he manages to convey so incredibly much - loneliness, grief, trauma, horror, righteousness, anger, and hope - just through his eyes. He plays the man who's been to hell and hasn't really made the trip back yet. I confess (insert gasps of fangirl horror here) that I have never seen Won Bin in anything before - I am a lot less likely to watch a Korean movie than a drama, and he hasn't done a drama in close to a decade (and no, I am not watching Autumn Tale - not after lesbiassparrow's hilarious write-ups). I know he is a big Korean movie star, but before this movie I wouldn't have been able to pick him out of a line-up. But I am absolutely blown away now and really must find more of what he's been in - he is so intense and expressive without showing much, if it makes any sense. I was blown away by him the way I haven't been by an actor in a very long time. The other major character in the movie, young Sohmee, played by Kim Sae Ron, is also unforgettable - I was anxious for her the whole movie.
Anyway, enough of my rambles. Go watch! Here is the official MV to convince you if the write-up hasn't:
( A few caps of Won Bin from the movie. Not spoilery )