Two of my favourites from the past few years have been 2010’s The Man from Nowhere and 2014’s No Tears for the Dead.
Both movies have managed to create character driven stories with hard R action sequences which could surpass many Hollywood movies of late.
Jeong-beom Lee directs both movies but manages to make both tales very different… but which is truly the better picture?
The Man from Nowhere: The Protagonist
Bin Won plays Cha Tae-sik as a man of few words; he owns a pawn shop and keeps to himself. Occasionally the neighbor’s little girl Jeong So-mi will come to talk to him and they eventually become friends. When he comes across an organ trafficking ring who kidnaps the girl, we find out that there is more to the pawn shop owner than meets the eye. Bin Won brings a surprising amount of heart and sensitivity in between scenes of neck breaking and violence. Although mysterious, we still like him and you just know that he’s going to be a complete badass… especially when we find out that he used to be special forces. Early on there is a quick scuffle with some goons but his awesomeness is totally unleashed during the climactic fight scene. But more on that later…
No Tears for the Dead: The Protagonist
Dong-gun Jang plays Gon, a hitman with a heart who is riddled with guilt after he accidentally kills a little girl. He also doesn’t say very much and is slightly less sympathetic than Bin Won. He is given the mission to eliminate the little girl’s mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life. Although he doesn’t say that much and is still a vicious killer, Gon still makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end making him a true hero after all.
So two protagonists, but neither of them are true blue heroes; they are flawed and have made mistakes, which only makes them more human. I think in terms of a memorable character I prefer Cha Tae-sik from The Man from Nowhere as he is willing to do anything to keep the girl safe from harm.
The Man from Nowhere: Thanayong Wongtrakul plays Ramrowan, a man who comes across as a sadistic killer and for the most part he is, but what’s interesting is that he isn’t a complete monster. When it comes down to him having to kill the little girl, he doesn’t do it and ultimately finds redemption… kinda. He still isn’t a nice guy though. It’s a shame the actor hasn’t been in anything else since as he nearly stole the movie.
No Tears for the Dead: Although there are several bad guys in this movie, it’s all about the incredibly cool Brian Tee. I can’t seem to find his character’s name but he starts off as Gon’s friend but when Gon turns against the organization that hired him, Brian goes after him. Once again he’s not toally evil but more layered than you’d expect and he doesn’t really want to kill Gon due to their past friendship.
For this round I’m afraid it’s a tie as I think both movies have great bad guys.
The Man from Nowhere: A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug- and organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend.
This story is essentially a retread of Taken but with more hardcore violence. Although it lacks originality, its execution is first rate and it’s also beautifully shot and incredibly stylish.
No Tears for the Dead: A hit man traumatized from accidentally killing a young girl during a job is given the mission to eliminate her mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life.
Although it’s a hitman-with-a-heart story, the plot has plenty of unpredictable twists and turns and definitely feels more fresh than The Man from Nowhere.
For this round No Tears for the Dead wins for trying something a little different.
Now this is the hardest part as both movies have some spectacular action sequences but I’ll give it my best shot.
The Man from Nowhere
Although smaller in budget and scale than No Tears, The Man from Nowhere has some jaw-dropping fight scenes and the finale is up there with The Raid in terms of sheer intensity. We’ve got awesome knife-fights, shoot-outs and fist fights which spare no punches.
No Tears for the Dead
Where this movie falls short is in the pacing; the first half is almost unbearably dull and also overdramatic in places. It makes up for it in the second half though with one of the best rooftop shoot-outs of all time. The action is bloody and merciless but the climax sadly isn’t quite is awesome as Man from Nowhere.
As close as this round is it’s The Man from Nowhere for me; the action may be smaller but that final fight scene is outstanding.
And the Winner is…
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed No Tears for the Dead I’m afraid I prefer The Man from Nowhere; it has a more sympathetic protagonist and some incredible action scenes. It also isn’t as dull as some of No Tears which really drags in places.