Flash Review. Heartless City [Cruel City]
You’re probably familiar with the expression “Fine wine is a process that takes time”.
I must admit, it took me quite some time to fully appreciate Heartless City. It took me some time before I was accustomed to this one.
A lot of my dramaland friends instantly fell in love with this show, while some felt disengaged. But I found that I could not dislike it, and still love it.
Show later changed that. The character climbed on me in the later episodes and held my heart with a firm grip. This was so intense, that by the conclusion of the show, I returned to the beginning to do an unreviewed portion. A bit odd, but totally real.
So could it be that my appreciation for wine is kind of as the fine wine I drink?
THE GOOD STUFF – My TOP 3 PICKS
1. Show the general handling
Cinematography, music, tone, vibe
Dark and beautiful are two words that come to mind when I think about the show’s style and tone. The cinematography is clean and polished. The music is dark and beautiful. The overall tone and vibe for any scene is dark beautiful and stunning.
The thing I find to be dissonant and very intriguing, is how, even though things may change quickly in the world, there is a distinct sense of languidness that pervades it.
The sardonic and sensuous flavor is a way of life that transcends the pace of the world and the incongruity of the slow-moving over the speed-y, is I believe, one of the big things contributing to the coolness of the show.
The OST also has the same slow-moving mood. Many tracks are evocative of loss, yet they maintain an edge.
The rhythm is steady and slow, but it is a pounding one. It has a trancey quality that is often amplified. It is both atmospheric and hypnotic that makes it perfect for this drama’s cryptic world.
The show is very confident storytelling style, however it is also completely unpredictable.
It’s like trying to solve a rotating game with pieces that change constantly when you watch this show.
It feels like you’re constantly trying to maintain your balance while moving on swiftly shifting sand. It’s interesting, challenging and extremely exhausting.
The narrative perspective is shifted quite a bit moving from the point of perspective of the police officers to those of the members and shadowy drug organization that is attempting to crack. And then back.
That is what constantly annoys us as a community because it impacts our perception of who we would like to support.
The world writer-nim portrays is not the black and white. Everything is a mix of different shades and a variety of gray in a drama world that seems just to be unfolding and reveal some hidden corners, and an extent that was never there.
Show succeeds at messing with our minds, which appears to be writer-nim’s main goal.
Turning stuff upside down
Show is known for turning things around.
It is essentially that when crucial information is provided to us, everything appears totally different in its new context, as it does when the kaleidoscope turns. The mind can spin while our brains try to discover new connections, removing old ones which no longer work and forming new ones.
As in episode 4, it’s made clear that Baksa (Jung Kyung Ho) is in fact an undercover agent. Everything about our story, as I have understood it, has changed:
Baksa is determined to take on the drug lord from its top. It’s not for his personal strength, but to accomplish his mission.
He threw out his phone to make Kyung Mi (Go Na Eun) inaccessible to him, understand that it wasn’t due to the law, but rather to make the way to Hyung Min (Lee Jae Yoon).
Show does this twisty thing a lot, as Safari (Choi Mo Sung), turns out to be an undercover agent in the episode 10.
While this twistiness is generally a good thing, I definitely feel that Show went overboard with this, to the point that the shock was completely worn out at the end of the film.
Show kept coming up with new surprises of this kind throughout the entire game. We weren’t surprised when Show exposed a character as dirty cop undercover agent.
It was absurd.
Note to the writer: There Is Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing In the End.
Yet, that large-scale twistiness is one reason I decided to go back to the beginning once more after having reached the end.
When I discovered the identities of the undercover agents as well as dirty cops I was eager to see how the whole thing was portrayed. It was like I was watching a completely different series.
2. Jung Kyung Ho as Shi Hyun/Baksa
In this show, Jung Kyung Ho is simply perfection.
I’m not sure what magic happened during his MS time however Jung Kyung Ho came back from MS with a new charisma and on-screen charm that I find totally and completely captivating.
In the film Baksa, Jung Kyung Ho appears flawlessly multi-layered, enigmatic and intense. Jung Kyung Ho does not appear like a gangster, due to his sharp-cut suit and flawlessly coiffed hair, but he has an air of danger around his persona that is unmistakably chilling.
Jung Kyung Ho has it everything. From channeling the cold, as-ice crime boss to unleashing his fast, as-the-wind-kicking badassery and to expose Baksa’s weaknesses to the maximum extent possible,
Perfection. I say.
In addition, we should mention the slim, lean and powerful Jung Kyung Ho looks with that full-back tattoo, which was unfortunately blurred out to broadcast.
Wowza. Dangerously stunning, isn’t it?
Baksa is, despite his sudden, violent outbursts, is calm and collected. This makes him feel even more dangerous because it is impossible to predict when your inner ninja may come out.
The inner ninja hawk-eyed, however, is always under the surface. It’s constantly monitoring and processing and determining if his intervention is required. It’s frighteningly cool.
Baksa, who is hands-on and yet mysterious, is something I am a fan of. It’s a combination I find intriguing and compelling.
It’s not surprising to expect someone as sharply suited and as perfectly coiffed as he, to give all the orders and let his assistant do all the dirty work. Not so Baksa.
Baksa’s appearance is not just well-known, but is also an source of satisfaction for me. He can walk among people and do his own investigations (like in episode 6), without anyone being aware that he is Baksa is there.
He has conversations with Attorney Ahn, Kim Jung Hak, multiple times under the name “President Jung” and I find it rather ironic and amusing that Attorney Ahn does not know whom he’s actually working with.
The scary badassery
Baksa seems to be a bit scholarly even with his clothes in place. Baksa is still able to fight his opponents, but he is swift as well as deadly in combat.
I love the unexpected aspect to his badassery; the contrast between his inner scholar and inner ninja one of my favorite things.
It’s quite surprising, considering Jung Kyung Ho is more tough than brute. And it’s always satisfying to see Baksa leave behind scores of buffer men who are larger.
Baksa takes down drug dealer characters in episode 7 in this scene: she’s refreshingly but she’s not wearing a suit. She is wearing a sleeveless, sinewy, and shiny t-shirt. This is a very sad episode.
Baksa performing cold, effective laser-sharp actions is what makes it so extraordinary. Amazing feat Baksa accomplishes, taking several men down in just a few minutes.
Today This is what I would call a terrifying cool badass.
Baksa is simply stunning. Baksa is quiet and calm but also precise, quick and uncompromising. This is a man who takes his bad boy skills to the next level.
The hidden tenderheart
Baksa can be brutal, but he also has deep feelings for and loyalties to those he cherishes.
The constant encouragement he gives to Soo (Yoonhun Min) and Jin Sook(Kim Yoo Mi), to leave the business shows how much he loves his employees.
And, what about that time he gives Director Min his new briefcase since he’d shot the old one? It was an absolute delight. (It was the giving of the briefcase, not shooting, to be clear.
Baksa might appear at times as like he is suffering from tenderheart issues, but it doesn’t stop his genuine affection to shine through. I am awed by how this makes him feel more human, particularly in contrast with how cold and controlled he needs to remain the majority of the time.
Jung Kyung Ho’s amazing delivery
Jung Kyung Ho gives a breathtaking, captivating and utterly engaging performance as Baksa throughout every stage and phase of his life.
Innocent Shi Hyun and Jaded Baksa are both convincing. Baksa can be considered to be a real living person.
There are so many amazing moments I could write about in relation to Jung Kyung Ho’s performance as Baska. I’ll choose this one from episode 8, where Safari intervenes during the fight between many people and strikes Baksa on the neck by using an iron rod.
The agonizing pain has Baksa down to the floor and Jung Kyung Ho kills it in a way I had no idea could be possible. It’s obvious that he went all in when he stepped onto the stage. It’s almost painful to look at his face while suffering from the hurt.
Baksa is experiencing physical suffering and desperation. As his thoughts drift back to his happier days with Safari it is clear that he feels betrayed and depressed.
Augh. It was great to watch, even though it was hard to watch.
3. The bromance
Baksa, Soo and their bromance are the best of sageuks. Both men are so passionate about each the other that they literally often – give up their lives to help one another. It’s hard to find an affair that’s more attractive than the decision to lay down your life to your loved one.
Baksa’s final plea to Safari at the 8th episode is about salvaging Soo. Baksa asks for Soo to live in return to him, and it’s true love on a grand scale.
If the police do arrive in the area, and stop Safari’s plans to kill him, the first thing Baksa does, is to save Soo even though he’s weakened and hurt himself. This is love, loyalty and passion in spades.
STUFF – I STRUGGLED AGAIN The Top 3
1. The drama world of this is really dark
Most of my friends who have known me for awhile will know that I don’t like dark things. I enjoy a well-told story in any its context. However, if you have to choose between bright and happy, or dark and scary I’d choose positive and light side. There’s no contest.
I mean, that’s the main reason I went to dramaland to begin with. You know it’s to make me feel light and happy, so that I could get away from the gloom of Real Life for a bit.
This means that I could recognize the beauty in the dark side of Heartless City however there was a deep void in my heart. My heart was always disturbed by the drama world and I was more involved with its characters.
No one is crystal clear in the realm of good and bad. Every person is a shade of grey. Everybody is messing things up. The relationship between them is also in a mess. It’s difficult to trust anyone and very few people truly believe what they declare. A
Also everything is a commodity. Position. Power. Drugs. Money. Sex. Life. Everything is uncertain.
Show’s intoxicating, murky nature tilts you and makes it difficult to see the direction in which you’re going. This show was loved by many viewers, but I.. was not.
It was very uncomfortable for me on a fundamental level. It was difficult to come to terms with this dark and tense story with my uneasy heart.
This is only one instance of a character that is deranged.
Episode 4: Hyung Min makes Soo Min an undercover agent without any training. This unsettling behavior was apparent at several level.
1, This is a dangerous situation for her and she hasn’t been taught to protect herself.
2, It is a situation where Soo Min will be required to perform a prostitute act in order to cover. Kyung Mi would’ve never allowed it;
3, Hyung Min, in essence does not give her an option;
4. He actually believes that this is the only method to assist Soo Min. This is so absurd, I can’t believe it.
5 Hyung Min has evidence that supports Soo Min’s innocence. That means he kept evidence so that it would be able to force her to covertly.
OMG. All of this combined made me so mad at Hyung Min that I began to start to dislike him. And, even more troublingly is that he continues to treat Soo Min inhumanely and as an information source only.
Hyung Min’s behavior may be explained by his feelings of feelings of loss, grief and rage. However, the viewers could claim that Hyung Min’s behavior could be a reflection of his true character. This situation shows me that Hyung Min’s a total idiot.
Instead of protecting Soo Min the way Kyung Mi would like, Kyung Mi forces Soo Min into a dangerous and degrading position . He the latter withdraws all support. Blech.
2. The concept of power
Power and the struggle for it, is an on-going theme throughout the show. This is a theme that runs throughout the show, as we observe it within the “kill-or-be killed” reality that our characters reside in. In our world, it’s perfectly acceptable to murder your friend if it helps you increase your power.
The aspect of power that I’d like to discuss in this article is how power is that is perceived by women in the world of drama.
I’ve seen viewers gushing about how powerful women were in this show. From the glamour, makeup and the heels, to the fact that they made an impact on the plot.
The problem is that even with all my efforts I’m not able to think of the women I love as powerful. I find them sad. I just couldn’t help. Coz although they might believe that they are in some form of control and power but at the core of it, they’re degrading their bodies.
Jin Sook said it best in her interview with Soo Min episode 7.
“You have to make money in order to survive, but you have no other options. There is no place that accepts you. Your body is all that you own and you must make the right choice. But, there’s a little pride left in your heart. Although you don’t want tears to stop pouring out but it’s fine not to.
You’d like to scream and curse. But you can’t because others might think you’re crazy. In the same way, all of the kids within the industry are exactly like this. It’s not because she loves it.
This is a wild thing when it’s done just for amusement. You might think that you’ll become accustomed to it in time. This feeling will last .”>
Jin Sook’s words convey a clear sense that Jin Sook is feeling sadness and loss. In spite of all the years of being in the industry and working in the industry, it’s clear that she still feels like this. Although she may seem to have power however, she’s actually a victim to an unjust system.
This brings to my first thought. Everybody is sick and corrupt. Every person is a victim, greedy, and deceitful. Nobody’s power.
3. It’s difficult to organize everything in your head
The title of this section is easy to understand, but let me be clear, this show is no easy watch.
There are so many characters, a lot of whom are known by multiple names, that it’s hard to remember the names of who’s who, or the ways they’re linked. Show can offer games-changing information on a regular basis.
I’ve already mentioned this I have said it before, but it is vital to determine which aspects of your knowledge of the characters or stories you still hold every time a Show provides one of these pieces information.
It’s a complex web that writer Tim weaves. The confusion is an inevitable outcome of the inability to keep so many connected dots and threads straight.
At least, that was my experience. For me personally, it was difficult to keep everything straight in my head at any point during the show.
I’m sure I’ve alluded to Show’s tendency to be a bit repetitive towards the end of its run, so I’ll just mention the other aspect that didn’t go so well for me, during this particular show.
The OTP connection
Although I may be not following the mainstream in this instance, I have to admit that I have never believed in the OTP’s love.
Their interactions were a bit too abrupt for me. All of it that they had, from their frequent encounters to developing deeper feelings for one another, didn’t feel natural or organic to me.
It’s true that romantic relationships aren’t always logical. They are often driven solely by attraction or chemistry. But, I was not convinced of the OTP’s alleged attraction or chemistry.
Nam Gyu Ri’s style of delivery is the one I find most inauthentic and convincing. I know she’s trying her best. Jung Kyung Ho is sometimes capable of convincing enough for both of them, but overall this pairing has never worked out for me.
One example of this is when Soo Min pushes into Shi Hyun’s space in the earlier episodes of random encounters.
Soo Min is unnaturally too friendly when she sees Shi Hyun. Shi Hyun’s negative expressions and apathetic attitude don’t encourage her to behave like this.
After nearly being attacked by him when he ran after them and trying to reach them, she presses forward to try to invade his space each time.
It’s a bit of a stretch, is that ? It’s normal to think that she’s stupid It’s hard to believe that someone would behave in such a manner particularly when you consider Nam Gyu Ri’s excessively bright delivery.
The kiss and subsequent sex in episode 9 and 10 don’t seem natural or organic to the story or characters.
I mean, I can understand the reason Shi Hyun feels alone and feeling lost. Soo Min’s gentle warmth draws Shi Hyun to her and encourages her to be in touch with him.
The fact is, however, that it did not feel natural to both of the times I watched it, and I needed just to understand it.
Given the enormity of the problems Shi Hyun has to face It’s hard for him to be in a state of mind or desire to kiss others.
On the bright side, Jung Kyung Ho is dead sexy during the bed scene, as well as the kiss scene before. Just so Sexy and Sweet. Puddle.
To be clear, I do appreciate the effort writer-nim made to show us that Shi Hyun is more than a casual one-night stand. It just never felt enough.
Show could have chosen either to intensify or cut out the lovelines. I would prefer the latter. I think either way it would’ve made the feel like a stronger drama.
THINKTS ON THE end
To be sincere, I was not thrilled by the ending.
The show is populated with undercover cops by the end of the last stretch. They aren’t aware that everybody is also Undercover Cops, which makes it laughable.
Baksa was the right hand man of an undercover cop for a long time, but he didn’t realize that Baksa also is undercover. Baksa pursued Safari all through, never realizing that Safari is undercover too. Soo Min has been undercover, trying to catch Baksa however, he is unaware that Baksa is actually undercover.
Oh what a confusing web of tags we weave between undercover cops. It’s ridiculous, really.
Nearly everyone dies in the final. This is very sad. And, even more tragically, Shi Hyun’s sudden demise seems to be a bit random. Those who are able to live on, but do not go to heaven will be left with their memories and the capacity to see the world through their eyes. It’s very sad.
Show offers a glimpse of the possibility of. Shi Hyun’s voiceover, as well as the video of Shi Hyun back, in which he now wears a light-colored suit that wasn’t his prior to, is proof of this.
However, it feels like an encasement that dramas frequently draw out. This fantasy world is not logical and has absolutely nothing to do with the story of the drama.
It’s difficult for me to believe that Shi Hyun is still out there somewhere, still being an evilass. But, believing he’s alive is more satisfying than believing he’s deceased.
CLOSING THE THINKERS
Show, even though it was only the final few episodes, was able to get my attention and made me smile, and even though the ending was not my favorite the show was still an unforgettable experience.
Baksa who is a lonely , but ultimately a sympathetic badass protagonist made Show stay with me for a long time into the end.
Show despite its flaws, has a unique beauty that makes it stand out, kind of like meteorites that appear every once in a while.
Show is a meteorite that sparkles brightly as it melts itself out into nothingness.
It’s darkly gorgeous and extremely twisty. But, it can also be confusing and a little disturbing. Jung Kyung Ho is simply amazing at this and makes it all worth it.