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Kim Si Hoo (also known as Lee Dong Wook) was probably the only part of Love Rain: The 70s Years that I enjoyed, which is no surprise since he was also likable in a cute minor role in one of my favorite dramas, the wonderful Formidable Rivals (Kang Jeok Deul, aka Powerful Opponents – KBS 2008) about presidential bodyguards who have to put up with the president’s immature son.  Kim Si Hoo had a relatively small role as the main character’s rascally little brother, but his storyline was still pretty adorable.  And the main story was so good that interesting side stories like his fell by the wayside in order to keep the focus on the brash Cha Young Jin, and the complicated love triangle that forms with her partner, the cold Yoo Gwang Pil, and their troublesome charge, Kang Su Ho.

Cha Young Jin (Chae Rim, Oh! My Lady) is a tough, but emotionally vulnerable, bodyguard-in-training with dreams of protecting the president (ok).  Even though she is a rare female in the profession, she is very confident about her skills until she meets Yoo Gwang Pil (Lee Jong Hyuk, All About Marriage), the arrogant but talented classmate who has no patience for women in this line of work, since he considers them inferior and liabilities in the field.

They don’t bother trying to hide their prejudice for the other, and their feud becomes legendary.  Don’t they realize that feeling this way will only lead to them becoming partners?  They are both assigned to guard the president’s troublemaker son, Kang Su Ho (Lee Jin Wook, Spy Myeong Wol), and they enter a nightmare world where they are subject to the whims of the pettiest person on earth.

For Young Jin, the horrors are pretty straightforward – this guy is a jerk who lives to terrorize his bodyguards (which might be understandable in a teenager, but in a grown man is just sad).  But for Gwang Pil, it gets more personal – what is his relationship with the president and his family, which seems to go back a long way?  And why does Su Ho seem to hate him so intensely?

As Young Jin and Gwang Pil eventually tame Su Ho (it was kind of sad to see him cave so easily – but satisfying), they also find themselves drawn to each other more closely.  Are they really just partners anymore?

It was really nice to see these two really lonely people start to trust each other, and even depend on one another.  But of course Su Ho also begins to fall for the long-suffering Young Jin, and everything gets a little more complicated.

There were super fun scenes throughout the drama (though the ones of Young Jin getting beat up were less fun), such as the requisite Makeover/Undercover Mission as a Hot Girl episode, during which Chae Rim seemed to have the best time ever.

This love triangle played out really well, I think – lots of intense moments of happiness and jealously, and lots of fun.  The dancing scenes were a little weirder, but whatever.

Young Jin also had to deal with her problematic family, and this also explained why she was drawn to becoming a bodyguard (well, not really, but I think the drama tried really, really hard to make it seem related).

Her father, Cha Gwang Soo (Oh Kwang Rok, Legend) is a dance instructor, which carries a pretty low status in Korean dramas – these men are generally considered sleazes who either cheat ahjummas out of their money or else have affairs with them.  Her little brother, Cha Young Gu (Kim Si Hoo), is kind of a useless ditz, so Young Jin has no one to rely on and no real home either.

We see that Young Jin has had to shoulder heavy burdens early on, leading her to become even closer to Su Ho and Gwang Pil, as the partner who shares her problems with her, and they form kind of a makeshift family.

To complicate things, Gwang Pil also has a young daughter, the tomboyish (and adorable) Yoo Kkot Nim (Kim Yoo Jung, Grudge: Revolt of the Gumiho), who adores her father, and also attaches herself to Young Jin-Ahjumma.

Usually the whole single parent element is a total downer in these dramas, but here it was done pretty well, not just because of the actress, but because she helped the two partners get even closer.  She and Young Jin were like soulmates too – they had similar styles.

The scenes of Kkot Nim chilling with Young Jin’s family were so funny, but Kkot Nim’s crush on Cha Young Gu-Oppa was beyond cute.  Kim Yoo Jung is probably the best kid actress I’ve ever seen, and this was her best role so far.  I know she was praised in the recent hit The Moon that Embraces the Sun, but I wonder if that can match this bravura performance (or her hilarious turn in Iljimae).  She was perfect as the vaguely sullen kid who is both wise beyond her years and still very much a child.  Also, it’s not ok to touch her stuff.

Even if I hadn’t ended up liking Gwang Pil so much (though not his clothing – deal with some of his outfits for a moment), I would always have rooted for him to get Young Jin since I absolutely hated Su Ho.

The kind of cruel behavior he exhibited made my blood boil, and I immediately wrote him off as any kind of love interest since I refused to believe that the drama would let him get the girl after putting her through all of the crap (too vulgar?) that he did.  He did have the worst nuna in the world, but that doesn’t excuse everything.

Lee Jin Wook was too good playing someone so unlikable that I kind of hated him too, at least until he was a little more pleasant in Spy Myeong Wol (what a mess that drama became).  Of the other dramas he’s been in, I’m probably the most curious about Alone in Love and Someday, but he is not the draw in either of those.  Is it him, or his choice of roles?  At any rate, I hate Su Ho.  The end.

And it didn’t help that I was already partial to Lee Jong Hyuk, even though he seems like a jerk, too, and looks really jowly sometimes.

Here, his Gwang Pil was really frustrating at times (why didn’t he just say something?), but still very likable, which I found to be more a testament to the actor than the screenwriter.  Like Eom Ki Joon and Choi Daniel (though not as good as them, to me), he can make awful characters a lot less awful.

I had first seen him in Chuno where he totally stood out as the only good thing in an otherwise strangely immature drama about beast men.  I even sat through his weekend drama, All About Marriage, where he once again emerged as someone compelling to watch, even when he was playing the worst husband ever.  I don’t think broad comedy is his thing, so I was a little concerned to read that he would be playing the over-the-top comic relief in the upcoming A Gentleman’s Dignity, but I still want to watch that.

Chae Rim came into this role right after the greatness that was Dal Ja’s Spring, and this was her last super fun role before she was confined to the single parent ghetto of Korean dramas.  She obviously had a great time hamming it up as a badass fighter, but she was too cute to take seriously.

I think Lee Si Young was more believable as a tough fighter in the recent Wild Romance, but Chae Rim was still better than Park Min Young in City Hunter, so that’s something.  She is so fun to watch since she gives off this slightly mean, girl-gang vibe that really works for her.  Her Young Jin was also pretty aggressive on the romantic front, and vaguely creepy, but that totally worked here.

Seeing how she is so good at playing kind of bitchy characters, I begin to understand why I didn’t like her as much in All About Eve (though I really liked that drama in general) where she played the goody-goody character – I was obviously responding to how unnatural it was.  I’ve seen her later drama Oh! My Lady, which was entertaining, but nothing has really captured the Dal JaFormidable Rivals spirit.

This drama was written by Kang Eun Kyung, who also wrote Dal Ja’s Spring (I still have a hard time believing that she also wrote Glory Jane).  Unlike the Wild Romance scribe, I didn’t see many common themes in both dramas – the only real connection was that they were both really good and fun dramas.  Well, in Dal Ja’s Spring there was an awesome use of the theme song from The Bodyguard, so maybe the screenwriter has a soft spot for the profession.  I don’t really get why K-dramas love the female bodyguard thing (the thrill is kind of gone for me), but that really took second place to the romance, so I barely noticed it.

It was never really clear to me who was supposed to be the leading man, but I was rooting for Gwang Pil all the way.  I didn’t hate the ending either, no matter how ambiguous it was.  The OST was ok, mainly for the fantastically cheesy theme song.  Every good bodyguard needs cheesy fanfare.

Related Posts:

Love Rain: Episode 1

City Hunter: Series Review

Wild Romance: Episode 1

Glory Jane: Episodes 1-15