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Film / The Man from Nowhere

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Should've left me alone.

The Man from Nowhere, also known as Ajeossi, is a South Korean action film that opened in August 4, 2010 and is directed by Lee Jeong-beom.

It centers around an ex-Army Intelligence Command operator turned quiet pawnshop owner named Cha Tae-Sik, who is unexpectedly flung into a conflict between the Kkangpae and South Korean narcotics detectives. However, Cha later takes things personally when a child he knows becomes embroiled in the conflict.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Arch-Enemy: Cha Tae-sik has the Seok brothers, a duo of organ traffickers who abducted his only friend.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Mr. Oh. His first scene shows him beating Man-Seok for losing his product. When he learns that the police are surrounding the golf course, he tells none of his mooks and leaves them to stall the cops as he escapes.
    • Man-Seok has Bear murdered as a fall guy, and beats a wounded mook for not loading money fast enough.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Tae-Sik tells the villains, You guys only live for tomorrow, don't you? You don't stand a chance against a guy living for today. I only live for today. I will show you how fucked up it's going to be.
    • Tae-Sik tells Man-Seok, before the climactic final battle, 'How many cavities do you have? I run a pawnshop. I take gold teeth. I'll keep the gold teeth... And I'll chew up everything else.''
  • Bathroom Brawl: Cha Tae-sik tracks down Du-chi and Bear to a nightclub bathroom and stabs Du-chi to get him to reveal where So-mi is. Ramrowan walks in and fires off a gun that kills Du-chi in the crossfire. A fight ensues between him and Tae-sik which ends with the latter getting shot.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: For the first half of the film, most of Tae-Sik's fights is offscreen. His first onscreen fight is between him and Ramrowan.
  • Berserker Tears: Tae-Sik cries for So-Mi before his battle with Man-Seok's men, but instead of breaking down he starts shooting.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones:
    • Tae-Sik doesn't talk much, but you'd better listen when he does.
    • Ramrowan has even fewer lines and is equally dangerous, though this is partly because he's Thai and barely speaks any Korean.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Man-seok and Jong-seok are brothers and the handlers of the heroin So-mi's mother stole and quickly kill him to take over the criminal empire. As partners their outfit includes a drug running business staffed with enslaved children worked to death and then harvested for organs. Their kidnapping and holding of So-mi drives their conflict with Tae-sik.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Mr. Oh. the Seok brothers masterfully set him up for a fall after he beats Man-Seok.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tae-Sik's fellow AIC colleagues save him from being killed by the assassin after his wife got killed in a hit and run.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The drug and organ traffickers are dead and gone, and So-Mi was alive after all, but it's heavily implied that Tae-Sik's killing spree is going to end up in him spending time in jail.
  • Blood Knight: Ramrowan.
    Man-Seok: I told you not to send (Ramrowan) alone!
    Jong-Seok: That sick bastard likes going rogue anyway.
  • Boom Head Shot: Done twice, both by Tae-Sik.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • It's bad enough that the Seok brothers manipulate Tae-Sik to be their fall guy and lead him around in his search for So-Mi. The fact that they relentlessly mock and deride him along the way makes his Roaring Rampage of Revenge all the more appropriate.
    • Mr. Oh makes some dismissive and racially-charged remarks about Ramrowan in his first appearance. Later, Ramrowan defeats all of Mr. Oh's men, disfigures him and brings him in for organ harvesting. Granted, he was following orders from Jong-Seok , but he made a point of confronting Mr. Oh alone, and watched him beg for his life with a smile before slashing his face open.
  • Camp Straight: Jong-Seok.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The knife Tae-Sik grabs from the mook accompanying Bear lets him cut through the mesh net and chase Mr. Oh.
    • Ramrowan executes Mr. Oh while he's offering him money from his meth operation. This seems innocuous, but later in the film Tae-Sik stumbles upon a meth lab run by Jong-Seok.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Tae-Sik has no qualms about using his gun to thin out the opponents, use effective disabling moves or even biting to get things done quicker.
  • Covers Always Lie: Most of the posters show a gun-wielding Tae-Sik with So-Mi standing beside him. This never happens in the movie.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Tae-Sik. He watched his pregnant wife get murdered in front of his eyes while he was still with the South Korean military.
  • Death of a Child: Happens throughout the entire film. Hundreds of children are manipulated and harvested, and Tae-Sik's pregnant wife dies when a garbage truck rams her car. Thankfully, each example is a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The lead detective at the beginning. He takes out Bear single-handedly, despite being half his size, and has witty remarks for every occasion. He is still an important character, but after Tae-Sik's introduction he turns into an Inspector Javert.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Tae-Sik was already suffering from this the moment his wife passed away. Eventually, it breaks him after believing that So-Mi died, causing him to almost commit suicide in the end.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Mr. Oh. He happily beats Man-seok when he's at the top of the food chain with armed guards around but turns tail runs when the Seoks set him up to take the fall on a heroin deal. When Ramrowan hunts him down and kills his remaining men all he can do is pathetically beg for his life and try to turn the mercenary against the brothers before being cut down.
    • The Seok brothers themselves. As soon as Tae-sik so much as sets foot in their club their strategy becomes to flee as quickly as possible. Jong-seok in particular is happy to torture helpless victims to death but once Tae-sik turns the table on him all he can do is spew impotent threats at Tae-sik while hoping not to die gruesomely and Man-seok flees his penthouse the second Tae-sik starts shooting, even going so far as to call the cops himself and try frantically to dissuade Tae-sik from killing him when he's alone.
  • Disappearing Bullets: Near the end, Tae-Sik shoots at Man-Seok's car's bulletproof windshield repeatedly at the same spot. The glass starts to crack but the bullets (which failed to penetrate the glass) are nowhere to be seen.
  • Dramatic Irony: Tae-sik admits that he can't remember So-mi's face anymore. When he arrives at the organ harvesting area, he finds the corpse a girl whose fingernails were painted by So-mi. The audience knows that it's the wrong girl, but Tae-sik mistakes her for So-mi. Strangely, Tae-sik is never really shown reacting to this misconception, and he sees the real So-mi immediately afterwards.
  • Driven to Suicide: Tae-Sik after killing all the bad guys, prepares to kill himself, assuming So-Mi is already dead.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Hyo-jeong's corpse is found naked in a car's trunk.
  • Dysfunctional Family: So-Mi's family. Her mother is a dancer at a night club and a drug addict. So-Mi spends most of the time by herself and often steals to get money.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Man-Seok eventually has enough of Mr. Oh, sets him up and ultimately uses him for organ harvesting.
  • The Dragon: Ramrowan to the Seoks. While they scheme he's much of the reason they're as dangerous as they are: going solo to hunt down and eradicate what remains of their former boss' faction and the only single member of their organization to provide a challenge to the near-unstoppable Tae-sik.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Ramrowan seems far more interested in finding a Worthy Opponent through mercenary work than he is loyal to Man-seok and Jong-seok. While he does happily kill for them, once he's faced with Tae-sik he mostly focuses on facing the hero and plays to his own rules such as forming a friendship with and later sparing So-mi.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The heroes go through hell, but So-mi is successfully rescued.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Tae-Sik's pistol, given to him by an old comrade, helps to thin out the mooks during the final fight.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: When Tae-Sik has Jong-Seok captive, his brother Man-Seok grows visibly agitated, his voice rising and cracking as he makes threats.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ramrowan has a soft spot for So-Mi, and when "500" puts her under to extract her eyes he turns on him and kills him instead.
  • Eye Scream: Thankfully, we are only shown the preparation and the aftermath of the eye-removal process.
  • Final First Hug: From Cha Tae-Sik to So-Mi at the very end.
  • Gun Fu: Plenty of guns used through the film, but Tae-Sik is shown to have advanced skills.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Quite frequently used. Most notable is Mr. Oh getting killed by Ramrowan, the harvested body of the kid whose nails were done by So-Mi, and though we see the aftermath, Ramrowan kills "500" by ripping his eyes out.
  • Gratuitous English: Ramrowan speaks English and is largely spoken to in English, apparently because he's Thai and uses it as a lingua franca.
  • Hazy-Feel Turn: Ramrowan; he still fights Tae-Sik to the death, but that was out of their mutual respect as warriors. He saves So-Mi from a horrific fate, though.
  • The Hedonist: Jong-Seok dresses lavishly, spends his time in hot tubs and night clubs and surrounds himself with pretty women. Man-Seok calls him out on it.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tae-Sik suffers this for a moment after he's presented with what he believes are So-Mi's eyes in a tube.
  • Hiding Behind Your Bangs: This being Korea, Tae-Sik's Beard of Sorrow takes the form of a shaggy head of hair that always falls over one eye. His Important Haircut signals his return to focus.
  • Hollywood Healing: Tae-Sik, after taking an almost-fatal gutshot and get the bullet dug out, does not show any sign of the still-healing wound in the final part of the film. Or he's just that badass.
  • Homage: Tae-Sik is pointedly shown caring for a small cactus in his apartment window early in the film. This is an obvious reference to Leon's houseplant in The Professional, to which this film owes a lot.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Man-Seok warns Tae-Sik against hurting his brother Jong-Seok. Tae-Sik responds by shooting at Jong-Seok's leg a few times with a nail gun. Tae-Sik, interestingly, never uses this phrase. Instead, he insists that he will kill the Seok brothers no matter what they do or say.
  • Ignored Expert: Ramrowan notices Tae-Sik wasn't shaken by the sound of a gunshot right next to him. He mentions this to Jong-Seok, but the latter isn't interested.
  • Important Haircut: Tae-sik gives himself one about halfway through the film.
  • Inspector Javert: Kim Chi-gon, a detective with the narcotics squad.
  • Karmic Death: If they're evil, odds are they die a very, very appropriate death for their crimes. To note:
    • Mr. Oh, the initial Big Bad, winds up getting his organs harvested in his own meth lab.
    • Jong-Seok dies the most horrifically karmic death in the film. Especially so since he has to watch helplessly as it happens.
    • "500", the "expert" in organ harvesting, is killed and has his own eyes harvested.
    • Ramrowan, a Knife expert, is killed by Tae-sik's knife.
  • Kick the Dog: 500 mocking a child about killing her mother before preparing to harvest her organs.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The mook accompanying Bear spikes the drink of a girl to have sex with her. Two scenes later he gets stabbed by his own knife and shot down in the restroom after having sex with the girl.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Tae-Sik.
  • Man Bites Man: Used by Tae-Sik against Ramrowan. He bites hard into Ramrowan arm, so he can use both hands for a fatal knife stab.
  • Manly Tears: Shed by Tae-Sik on a few occasions.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Jong-Seok is incredibly stylish in every appearance and is usually seen entertaining multiple women with drinks.
  • Noble Demon: Ramrowan is plenty violent and serves the Seok brothers but clearly develops a respect for Tae-Sik, noticing his skill and resolve early on when the other thugs are writing him off. He clearly relishes their fights, and during the final battle, waits for Tae-Sik to finish the mooks before engaging him one on one in a knife fight, despite having a gun. It's also hinted that he has a soft spot for kids, trying to protect So-Mi from seeing her mother being tortured, bringing her snacks in the ant's nest and ultimately saving her from getting her eyes removed by 500, going so far as disobeying and lying to his boss.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Neither Mr. Oh nor the Seoks are fighters themselves. While all are happy to beat or torture powerless people none to any actual head on fighting and as soon as any of them are left without their men it's right to the begging to live. Ruthless crime lords they all may be but hands on combatants they are not.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jong-Seok realizes that he's screwed the moment his facility blows along with him. This is evident as he cries for help, but eventually stops when the flammable lamp falls on the room full of leaking gas. His older brother Man-Seok also has this when he has nowhere else to run and Tae-Sik still has "one bullet left" to deliver a killing shot.
  • Organ Theft: One of the income sources for the bad guys.
  • Papa Wolf: While technically not So-Mi's father, Tae-Sik is practically this. So-Mi views him as something of a surrogate father-figure as well.
  • Pet the Dog: Ramrowan shields So-Mi's eyes when she walks in on her mother being tortured by Jong-Seok. He later gives her a snack at the "ants nest," and she returns the favor by putting a bandage on his cut. He ultimately saves her from a grisly death.
  • Police Are Useless: The only useful thing they did was informing Tae-Sik the location of the ATM where So-Mi withdrawn a large amount of money, as she was being used to transfer money by the Triads.
  • Pre Asskicking Oneliner: From Tae-Sik no less.
    Tae-Sik: How many cavities do you have?
    Man-seok: What?
    Tae-Sik: I run a pawnshop. I take gold teeth. I'll keep the gold teeth. And I'll chew up everything else!
  • Psycho for Hire: Played around with by Ramrowan. He obviously enjoys his job, but he avoids harming innocent bystanders and children (see his reaction to accidentally killing the drugged girl at the nightclub) if he can help it. He's fine with letting the evil people go about their business, but when he's put in charge of ripping So-Mi's eyes out, he kills the surgeon instead.
  • The Reveal: Tae-Sik is a former black ops commando of the South Korean military's Army Intelligence Command.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: So-Mi's mother stole the heroin sample from the mob boss, kickstarting the whole story.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: After So-Mi gets kidnapped, Tae-Sik starts one.
  • Recycled In Space: The movie has elements of Taken, Man on Fire, The Transporter, and of course, The Professional.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Chinese and Japanese gangs factor heavily into the plot, while the hero's main rival is Thai.
  • Wham Shot: When So-Mi's mother's harvested corpse was revealed inside the car and So-Mi's "eyes" inside the glass bottle.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Man-Seok is average-looking or a little chubby, business-oriented and conservatively dressed. Jong-Seok is hedonistic, laid-back and wild, with a pretty face and lavish clothing.
  • Sissy Villain: Jong-Seok is somewhat prissy and fashion-obsessed.
  • Slasher Smile: Jong-Seok always has a sickening grin on his face when he's committing various atrocities. Ramrowan also delivers this to his target Myung-Gyu as he delivers a killing slash.
  • The Starscream: Man-Seok and his brother betrayed their boss early in the film. Later, Ramrowan killed "500".
  • Shirtless Scene: A memorable one featuring a very ripped Won Bin cutting his own hair.
  • Super Window Jump: Tae-Sik performs this in a Moment of Awesome. Watch it here.
  • Tranquil Fury: After his Heroic BSoD Tae-Sik takes out a room full of mooks in a matter of minutes, with no emoting but tears and concentration.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The main villains are Chinese gangsters operating in South Korea.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Seok Brothers constantly taunt and belittle Tae-Sik. You can guess how that turns out.
    • It borders on Too Dumb to Live, when they continue to belittle him when he already traced them down and starts a killing spree.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: After Tae-Sik gets shot by Ramrowan, his old comrade does this.
  • Worthy Opponent: Ramrowan sees Tae-Sik as this. During the final fight, as Tae-Sik butchers the other mooks, he refuses to shoot him, instead challenging him to a one on one knife fight.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The bad guys, who use children to produce and smuggle drugs, and have them killed and their organs harvested.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Ramrowan might be a Psycho for Hire, but Even Evil Has Standards.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Several of the villains in the film wind up dead at the hands of another villain.