Now that Hwang Sun Hee is actually doing something in Wild Romance, where she plays the jealous Oh Su Yeong, I remember that she used to do more generally in dramas, like the last one she was in, City Hunter (SBS 2011 – 20 Episodes). She was kind of the second lead in that drama – I say only kind of because that drama was all about City Hunter. And it’s alright!
Based on the classic manga, but really having very little to do with it, City Hunter tells the story of Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho, Boys over Flowers) and his secret life as an avenging angel. After his father is murdered by the government, his father’s best friend, Lee Jin Pyo (Kim Sang Joong, Life Is Beautiful), steals Yoon Sung away and runs off to the Triangle to become a drug lord. But it’s not just money he’s after – as he rakes in the considerable drug money, he plots his perfect revenge against the Group of Five (men, that is) who did this to him and his comrades. And Yoon Sung, trained as an elite killing machine, becomes his perfect instrument for vengeance.
Upon returning to Korea, after a kind of idyllic, Mowgli-esque youth in the jungle, Yoon Sung gets a day job at the Blue House (where the president lives – like the White House, only Blue and in Korea), while his nights (and some afternoons, I guess – what a bad civil servant he is!) are spent being the awesome City Hunter who rights wrongs and fights for justice! And what better cover is there than pretending to be a rich tech geek with interesting clothing choices? Soon everyone wants to know: Who is City Hunter? His complicated life is further complicated by a Blue House bodyguard, Kim Nana (Park Min Young, Glory Jane), whom he falls for. What will happen when they start fighting on opposite sides? And is there something his crazy adopted father isn’t telling him?
On the side of the law, we have righteous Prosecutor Kim Young Joo (Lee Joon Hyuk, I Am Legend) who becomes obsessed with finding out who this masked vigilante is. He also has a connection to Nana, being her Kidari Ahjussi (Daddy Long-Legs – see, everyone still loves Daddy Long-Legs), but their relationship is much more twisted than that. There is also Jin Se Hee, a lovely vet played by Hwang Sun Hee who treats a variety of animals, from dogs to masked vigilantes. And there is the rest of the sprawling cast, but who else can you look at but City Hunter? I think the standout secondary character here was Yoon Sung’s dad who was insane. He seriously freaked me out with his intensity and apparent ability not to feel physical pain. Of course City Hunter would be raised by someone like that.
This was a really fun (but not exactly funny) drama with a nice, almost noirish but mostly cartoonish feel, and even the ending was pretty good. And I would never have imagined that Lee Min Ho could be so good and believable as an action star. He’s probably looked the best doing his fight scenes compared to any other actor I’ve seen in a drama – what movie magic! I had liked him a lot in Boys over Flowers where he played the outrageous Gu Jun Pyo, and for some reason I still like him in that role best, though this one was pretty game changing in terms of what kind of leading man he can be. He was super slick as City Hunter, but I guess I think a spazzier Lee Min Ho is more fun to watch. But he can totally carry a drama, and he was the one who made it super fun to watch. I hope he does more dramas rather than movies, unless it’s one of those Hong Kong action flicks, in which case I’ll totally watch it.
I had actually been keener to see Park Min Young since she had just come out of one of my favorite dramas ever, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, but I was a little disappointed. She was fine as a bodyguard, but her action scenes left something to be desired. She wasn’t bad, but she just didn’t add anything extra special. I think Chae Rim played a female presidential bodyguard way better in Formidable Rivals (I love that drama), and now even Lee Si Young is playing tough better in Wild Romance. Since I felt this drama was Lee Min Ho’s show, I guess she didn’t have much to work with, but her performance in her next drama Glory Jane made me think that she’s just getting by more on being a likable actress than a super talented one. Who knows, maybe with the right role she would totally blow me away.
It looked like she blew Lee Min Ho away since they dated after this drama, though that romance was short-lived. Oh well, City Hunter always rides alone, I guess.
I really want to like Lee Jong Hyuk since I think he’s so cute, but he just hasn’t connected with a good role yet, even here. I think his best performance to date has been in City Hall where he played an emo civil servant type, but I’m still hopeful that he might find the perfect role. He’s currently in The Equator Man (which follows Wild Romance) so we’ll see.
He and Hwang Sun Hee formed another really adult but slightly boring couple in this drama – is it her? Does she make every romance seem angsty and grown-up? It’s hard to believe she’s around Park Min Young’s age when she seems so much more mature. I’m curious to see if she can play anything other than mild-mannered and level-headed. Will she go crazy for a little bit in Wild Romance?
The drama was very loosely based on the classic hardboiled manga by Tsukasa Hojo. I’m kind of curious to read the manga now, even if City Hunter is more of a sleaze in that one. He’s also written a kind of sequel, Angel Heart, which continues his adventures. I’m a lot more curious about the manga-ka’s other title, Cat’s Eye, about the trio of beautiful cat burglar sisters who run a café by day and steal priceless works of art by night. The City Hunter title is pretty popular – Jackie Chan has even played him! I know that the last Rain drama, Fugitive: Plan B (which I didn’t like), was accused of being a kind of City Hunter rip-off, and I see that. But no one can compete with Lee Min Ho, who will forever be not City Hunter, but Pu Chai to me. Pu Chai!