KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

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


Monday, May 3, 2010

Time Between Dog and Wolf (2007)

Time Between Dog and Wolf
개와 늑대의 시간

(Jul – Sept 2007)

who’s in it
Lee JunKi (Iljimae, My Girl, Hero)
Nam SangMi (ILPK, The Grand Chef)
Jung KyungHo (Smile You)

what’s it about
Lee JunKi plays Lee SooHyun, a haunted National Intelligence Service agent who follows in his father’s footsteps both in career and purpose. His father had been a spook agent stationed in Bangkok to bring down a crime syndicate shoveling drugs into Korea, a far-reaching triad with its base in Thailand. This investigation lead to his own murder as well as Lee JunKi’s mother (eventually). As a rookie NIS agent, Lee JunKi attempts to avenge his family by finishing the job his father had long ago started and also hopes to kill the man who murdered his mother. 

Another significant part of Lee JunKi’s childhood in Thailand is Nam SangMi, a fellow expat in Bangkok he’d developed a crush on as a young boy. The two were separated when both children left Thailand due to their respective family situations. After the death of his mother, the orphaned Lee JunKi is adopted by an old NIS colleague of his father’s and taken back to Korea.

Many years later, Nam SangMi and Lee JunKi reunite in Korea by chance through Lee JunKi’s adopted brother, Jung KyungHo, and find themselves rekindling their friendship and their mutual attraction. Nam SangMi is now an art dealer who has more of a connection to his parents’ murderer than Lee JunKi initially understands. All the while, the triad has expanded their base of operations into Korea and just as the couple’s feelings grow for one another, their secrets from one another also accrue, one big secret being Lee JunKi’s job as a super secret spy—one driven by torment and revenge.   

When Lee JunKi loses himself, both in identity and purpose, during a deep cover assignment into the crime syndicate he is desperate to destroy, the moral lines that separate justice and revenge, brother and enemy, love and hate become blurred—the balance between right and wrong becomes obscured by the lies and secrets between them all. 

16 episodes


wildcard factor
Who isn’t fascinated by the dark underbelly of our society, the places where betrayal and blood is a way of life? Who doesn’t find a strange allure for the emotionally splintered people who live in that violent playground? Show me a person who isn’t, and I’ll show you a liar. The reason why we regular humans are unable to resist this kind of brutal escapist fare is because it is so far away from our own realm of reality but we understand on some level that these worlds are very real for others. Someone pisses you off? Well, bash his brains in, of course. Not for you or I, but for some, this is how their world works. These kinds of high-octane plots take place in an insane world populated by people equally mad, on both sides of the fight. They’re two sides of a coin, you see, these tales about organized crime and the intelligence agencies that try to bring them down. They are the two sides of humanity. Inevitably, moral lines will become muddied when dealing with a fight that occurs in the dark and that is what makes conflicts between cops and criminals timeless. That area of grey where black and white meet, that muddy area where the good guys and bad guys fight.

If you can get past the beyond-cheesy poster and the occasional tendencies for overdone melodrama, you may end up really enjoying this one, like I did. Not only was the drama actually decently written, it was exciting and thrilling to watch. In playing a tormented NIS agent caught between two worlds, Lee JunKi essentially got to play three characters and all of them were miserable people, but amusing to follow, especially if you enjoy the charismatic, macho-crying-only-on-the-inside type of heroes (which I do).

Besides, it was an opportunity to see Lee JunKi and equally handsome Jung KyungHyo play international spies that shoot bullets and missile-like glares at one another...well, I ask you, what’s wrong with that? Not very much, I assure you.

first impressions 
Wolf was unexpectedly surprising, but in a positive way. I hadn’t expected to enjoy any part of this at all and the only reason why I even bothered despite my prejudices against what I assumed would be yet another transparently melodramatic, half-baked spy story was my inability to say no to Lee JunKi. Having just written that, yes, it was melodramatic and sometimes half-baked, but the story wasn’t half bad either, in fact, I’d give it credit for at least recognizing its strengths and weaknesses and focusing on what it did well: Lee JunKi’s badassery. As expected, it does adhere to some of the usual genre conventions, but all in all, the emotional heart behind the characters manage to pull it away from becoming a boilerplate action dud. It definitely had its moments of clunkery, but the awesome swagger about it kept me coming back for more.

gave up

snoozer moments 
Any scene that Lee JunKi or Jung KyungHo weren’t featuring, which thankfully, were very few.

Yes, there definitely was booze consumption in this one. And lots of gunplay and blood and driving, too—sometimes all at once.

what didn’t work 
I like Nam SangMi a lot, I really do, I think she’s a natural beauty and there is a quirky style about her acting that is appealing. I didn’t have a problem with her in Wolf, but her character did have a tendency to be pointless. I understood the role in the show...but seriously, save me from women who always meddle in action shows and ultimately end up bringing disaster upon the very person they wanted to protect in the first place. I wanted her character to be more kickass and less weepy, but she was only mildly kickass and dropped enough water from her eyes to help resupply earth’s diminishing sea level. She had a lot of salty tears.

what did 
If you like stories about brothers, betrayals, childhood loves, and the drug cartels that bind them all, this is a must-watch. Lee JunKi and Jung KyungHo had some terrific bro-chemistry. Seriously, they really did. Imagine these two brothers walking down the sidewalk. Trust me, you’d trip over your own foot.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out 
The graphic design work and the marketing of this drama. As I mentioned above, the drama wasn’t half as bad as its excruciating poster art. It’s like they’re channeling some Airwolf (90’s American show about a rogue vigilante and his high-tech helicoptor—no joke)

Also, really minor point of contention, but whenever the two leads had facial hair in an outward manifestation of their misery...I wanted to reach into the tv with a straight blade and scrape the stubble off myself! Those baby faces were not meant for peach fuzz!

what kept me going
It had some nail-biting moments and those were enough for me to want to see this to the end. That and the fact that Lee JunKi was really fun to watch as the good guy pretending to be the bad guy turning bad guy turning good then bad but doesn’t know who the hell he is anymore guy.

That’s the thing about these kinds of thrill rides, once you’re hooked in, you’re usually hooked in for the whole damn thing. You completely forget you’re supposed to be an elitist snob and not like this sort of thing! I had to know how many of these twisted fates would meet their demise.

Other factors:
predictability Yes, of course, but shows like these, you always wonder who’s going to be allowed to live by the writers at the very end. I’m a pretty good guesser but sometimes the really zany ones elude me. I just can’t figure them out. This was such a case.
engrish No English but I can’t vouch for the quality of their Thai
originality Um...yes...and no. Yes, because it was a kind of a nutty and melodramatic plot. No, because there are a lot of nutty and melodramatic plots about the avenging of one’s parents in the kdrama world.
eye-candy Well, yes, all the leads were quite attractive
hair and fashion Wasn’t really a fan of some of the hairstyles Lee JunKi sported in here...but amazing what a pretty face can get away with when mixed with the right amount of smirking

is it worth trying to find?
I love Lee JunKi more than life itself.”
If so, then absolutely! No brainer! What are you waiting for? But I’m preachin’ to the choir on this one as I’m sure every Lee JunKi fan has already seen this. Twice.

Cheesy or not, I love action kdramas.”
Then, yes, watch it. Its pretty decent and it’s a fun adventure.

Me? Well, I like Nam SangMi and Jung KyungHo and they did respectably in this but let’s call a spade a spade, this was a circus with Lee JunKi headlining the main tent, which meant it was a show all about him. How strong your reaction for Lee JunKi, whichever way it teeters, will decide how cheesy you’ll find Wolf.

total enjoyment factor 
Probably deserves a 7 or 8, but the truth is, I can’t deny myself. Like I said, I really enjoyed it for what it was and can see myself revisiting this from time to time. And the ending really tied it all together for me.

Watch this one when you’re feeling especially emotional, with a box of Kleenex on hand.

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased 
Lee JunKi.

For some reason, good or bad, ridiculous or not, whatever he is in, I just like watching this guy do his thang. What is it about Lee JunKi that is so appealing? We’ll have to ask the hoards of his die hard fans. I’m not really fangirlie about him, don’t care at all for his musical explorations, and if I’m honest, I haven’t even particularly liked any of the dramas he’s starred in (although I did actually really enjoy his film Fly Daddy Fly; I know, crazy, right?)…although I thought his guest appearance on season one of variety show Family Outing showed me a whole new side to goofy Lee JunKi. You know, come to think of it, JunKi must truly be my guilty pleasure!

Lee JunKi and Takeshi Kaneshiro, I can watch hours upon hours of anything featuring these two, they just have that mysterious quality. Ok, well, my love for Takeshi Kaneshiro is not so mysterious and probably can’t really be compared to my interest in Lee JunKi’s work because I adore Kaneshiro like I adore breathing and nothing less than that. I could write a long dissertation on all of Takeshi Kaneshiro’s films but if I continue rambling I’ll really be veering off into the desert of digressions (shameless Kaneshiro plug: watch House of Flying Daggers, Chungking Express, The Returner, Lost and Found).

But back to Lee JunKi, yeah, I dunno, this guy was born to rawk the bright lights of film and television. He’s watchable and manages to pull off all his roles, no matter how ridiculous and extravagant the context. Now that’s a skill not every actor can do.

could a non-kdrama fan like this
Probably not

While these types of thrillers aren’t always my favorite and can get tiresome pretty quick, this one kept me interested until the end. Nam SangMi is always a passable female lead even at her worst and Jung KyungHo is leading man material himself—he’s that charismatic and lovable. But you ask, will you like it? Well, if you have even the slightest inclination for pantaloon thrilling dramas and the stud-appeal that is Lee JunKi, I can say with almost complete certainty you will probably like this drama. For the rest of you, it’s 50/50. You may be pleasantly un-whelmed, or totally sucked in against your will (like me), or if you are a more finicky type of kdrama watcher, there is always the option of outright disliking it. So basically I’ve outlined the three reactions for every kdrama you will ever watch in your lifetime. Ha. Seriously though, a pretty decent go at an action kdrama, which is very rare.

More than likely, most people will think it is better than they’d expected. Don’t worry, I assure you, at the very least, it’s not as bad as its posters.


  1. okay... that was a pleasure!!! first cuz TODAW was a drama i really enjoyed! and second because altho i know we tend to agree, but i was still surprised at how this was a particular review where I agreed with 99% of things... i think i would single this out as the TODAW review that matches most what I would write for a TODAW review if I was patient enough for that. and yes, i even liked fly, daddy fly! and kaneshiro too!
    where i don't agree? um, well, i don't remember crying in this drama but that may be because i wasn't feeling emotional! it was summer when i watched it! lol. and i do like sm LJK dramas. and i was looking forward to Faith (and not so much the jockey movie with Kim tae hee)... so sad he had to cut short his schedule for the army. TT. but oh well, see him in 2 yrs!
    as always, thanks for the review

  2. I know, so sad. I'll miss JunKi, too. Sniff.

  3. well, good thing is PT 11 is tomorrow.. that ought to be exciting

  4. [quote]Could a non-kdrama fan like this?Probably not.[/quote]

    Why. Why do you think that way?


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