Aired May- July 2013
If you are intimidated by any of the above, if you are hesitating because romantic comedies are more your thing—DON’T. If you are hesitating because in the past you’ve been horrified by the horrible that most drama action thrillers are—DON’T. I would recommend this to someone who has never seen a kdrama in their life. That’s the kind of non-exclusive appeal this crime thriller carries in its DNA.
It has a real story to tell. It has nuanced characters that have layers upon layers, attachments upon attachments, secrets upon secrets. It’s exciting. It’s epic. It’s beautiful. It’s moody, and it’s fun—as it is fun when watching something written, filmed, and acted so well. This is one of those unbelievably rare ones that is lovingly modeled after a very specific western style of filmmaking and storytelling...and actually succeeds!
The Main Players
Classic films of noir are romantic, they are morally complicated, and they prefer the luckless heroes. If you like dark crime stories, as I do, and you like gangster films, this kdrama will definitely appeal. While it does not fit the perfect definition of film noir, JTBC’s Heartless City is indeed a moody crime thriller and does a commendable job capturing that cynical attitude and gritty violence that defines the genre. Visually arresting, filmed with scenes that alternate between surreal brightness to sharp voids of darkness, Heartless hits all the right notes of a stylized thriller. Barbed dialogue, silky constuming, shifty villains and shiftier heroes, and a frantic plot propelling all the main players toward a collison that is deftly foreshadowed.
Heartless follows plainclothes detectives on the hunt for an elusive drug lord, this unknown figure who is the show’s protagonist, our doomed man. Handsome, effortlessly charming, yet utterly casual in his cruelty, Jung KyungHo surprises with his complete ownership of this electric role; when his character starts a civil war in an effort to “swallow the city whole,” we believe he can do it. But who is this man really, and what drives him?
Seoul feels like the perfect backdrop for this crime tale. The way it is filmed, the landscape feels coldly urban, disenfranchised, glittering in beauty and wealth, yet so isolating with its cosmopolitan ennui. Heartless has romance. It alludes to sexual kink. It romanticizes the underworld, drags the cops into the gutter, and more than anything, it wants to show you the ruthless underbelly of a city that’s all grown up and urbane enough to have a sexy story about a modern crime syndicate. Basically, a whole lot of cool badassery.
Official Teasers from JTBC