KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Monday, February 1, 2010

Iljimae (2008)

(May – Jul 2008)

who’s in it
Lee JunKi (Time Between Wolf and Dog, My Girl)
Han HyoJoo (Spring Waltz, Shining Inheritance)
Lee YoungAh
Park ShiHoo (How To Meet A Perfect Neighbor)

what’s it about
The story of a Robin Hood-esque figure named Iljimae (who looks like he just stepped out of a Ninja Gaiden Black video game), played by Lee JunKi, who is an ignoble clown during the day but gallivants around during the night as an anti-government bandit who fights for the people. His family was murdered when he was a child and now as an adult, he searches to find those responsible. Along his journey to free the oppressed, he begins to fancy a goody-goody noble girl, Han HyoJoo, who pretty much plays this same-same character in a lot of her dramas.

20 Episodes


wildcard factor
Lee JunKi

after the first episode
What can I say? A metal-masked Lee JunKi twirling and flying about the tips of hanok rooftops. To say I didn’t really like it, that would be the truth, but I thought that meant it had an abundance of room for improvement.

gave up

snoozer moments
Han HyoJoo and Lee JunKi “flirting” – if one can even call it such a thing. They had very little chemistry together. I’ve never been a fan of the whole unbelievable idea that Lois falls for Superman but doesn’t recognize him for being Clark. I mean, really. Falling for someone’s cool alter ego but not the real person behind the mask is not really that romantic a concept if you think about it.

There must have been drunken buffoonery, there always is in period pieces.

what didn’t work
The special effects were not great. Actually, they were closer to horrible.

what did
I liked the ending. It was a good ending for a character of legend and myth.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Fan of Lee JunKi, yes, I may be, but some of his [over]acting made me sigh and the special effects and manner in which the action scenes unfolded were almost silly. But I’ll now go ahead an contradict myself and say that despite Lee JunKi’s tendency for overdramatic physical comedy, he was the only thing that made this show at all watchable. I think this Iljimae version was not well-written or directed and only an actor such as Lee, with his star power and charisma to spare, could have pulled off such a ridiculous role and even more ridiculous ninja-like costume – only he could have made this drama a [ratings] success.

what kept me going

I just wanted to know Iljimae’s fate according to this show.

Other factors:
predictability I suspected, but wasn’t positive on how it would ultimately end
engrish No
originality Based on a comic book story which this SBS version did not have the rights to tell; Return of Iljimae by MBC which aired a few months later, however, did have the rights to the original comic and was a completely completely different kdrama beast.
eye-candy Lee JunKi is one of the prettiest men in the acting biz
hair and fashion 실패 (shilpae) – fail!

is it worth trying to find?
No (unless you lurve Lee Junki)

total enjoyment factor 

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
Let me sadly admit this, I’m a fan of Lee JunKi and like him a lot. I think he is a good actor and I think he’s very nice to gaze upon on the tele but this drama was just not that great.

could a non-kdrama fan like this
No, and I very much doubt a non-Lee JunKi fan would like it either. I know someone who is a very selective kdrama watcher and she did not get very far with this one.

This is one of those cases where the drama did fairly well in terms of ratings, but a lot of that is owing to Lee JunKi’s grand fan base, I think, and his ability to make the best out of any [bad] situation. He is definitely one of those rare talents that can single-handedly carry an entire drama and save it from utter disaster.

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