펀치 (Punch)

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19 Episodes
An HB Entertainment Production
Timeslot: Monday and Tuesday Evenings, 10:00 PM
Genre: Political Thriller
Format: 1080i Dolby Digital 2.0 – 65 Minutes
Ran from: 2014/Dec/15~2015/02/17

WITH 김래원 (Kim Rae-Won) as Park Jung-Hwan; 김아중 (Kim Ah-Joong) as Shin Ha-Gyeong; 조재현 (Jo Jae-Hyun) as Lee Tae-Joon; 서지혜 (Seo Ji-Hye) as Choi Yeon-Jin; 온주완 (On Ju-Wan) as Lee Ho-Seong; 최명길 (Choi Myung-Gil) as Yoon Ji-Sook; 김응수 (Kim Eung-Soo) as Jung Guk-Hyeon; 이한위 (Lee Han-Wi) as Oh Dong-Choon; 박혁권 (Park Hyeok-Kwon) as Jo Gang-Jae; 이기영 (Lee Gi-Young) as Lee Tae-Seop; 장현성 (Jang Hyun-Sung) as Jang Min-Seok; 송옥숙 (Song Ok-Sook) as Jung Hwan-Mo; 김지영 (Kim Ji-Young) as Park Ye-Rin; 이영은 (Lee Young-Eun) as Park Hyeon-Seon; 박정우 (Park Jung-Woo) as Kim Seong-Chan; 민성욱 (Min Seong-Wook) as Detective; 류승수 (Ryu Seung-Soo) as Yang Sang-Ho; 양주호 (Yang Ju-Ho) as Jung-Hwan's Friend; 정동환 (Jung Dong-Hwan) as Kim Sang-Min; 김익태 (Kim Ik-Tae) as Lee Won-Seok; 이중문 (Lee Joong-Moon) as Lee Sang-Young;

CREW Production Director 이명우 (Lee Myung-Woo) Main Writer 박경수 (Park Gyeong-Soo) Executive Producer 김동호 (Kim Dong-Ho) Chief Producer 이상욱 (Lee Sang-Wook) Producer 김시환 (Kim Shi-Hwan) Director of Photography 윤대영 (Yoon Dae-Young) 홍성길 (Hong Seong-Gil) 문상민 (Moon Sang-Min) Lighting 전홍근 (Jeon Hong-Geun) 이동완 (Lee Dong-Wan) Art Director 이주영 (Lee Ju-Young) Editor 조인형 (Jo In-Hyung) Music 강동우 (Kang Dong-Woo) Action Choreography 양길영 (Yang Gil-Young) 차재근 (Cha Jae-Geun) Assistant Writer 최승림 (Choi Seung-Rim) Assistant Producer 함준호 (Ham Joon-Ho)

RATINGS
AGB Nielsen Nationwide
HIGHEST: 14.8% (02/17 - E19)
LOWEST: 6.3% (12/15 - E01)
AVERAGE: 10.50%

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Photo © HB Entertainment

SYNOPSIS

Human beings lose what’s most precious to them at their most impressive moment. The peak of success! Park Jung-hwan thought his future would be bright when Lee Tae-joon became the Attorney General. But he is shocked! He finds out that he has a malignant brain tumor. He only has six months to live! This is a blood-red confession of a man who lived in a jungle-like world with wounds, and it is also a story of a woman who tries to heal him with justice. The darker the night, the brighter the star shines. Likewise, the deeper the despair, the brighter people shine. There is only one person who shed a tear for Park Jung-Hwan. There is only one person who became a light in his despair. That person is Shin Ha-kyung and he sets out to save her. This is a battle between two men who could neither be friends nor enemies. The Attorney General, Lee Tae-joon, was like a brother to him. They lived the same life and dreamt the same dream for seven years but they are going to battle each other! The desperate fight of who will die and who will live on begins. [SBS International]

EPISODES 1~4 [79/100]

The final chapter of Park Gyeong-Soo’s Power Trilogy seems slated to become the most intense of the three, as the tremendously fiery opening act shows. Right from the start we are catapulted into a world without stereotypical dichotomies of good vs evil, but a much more realistic confrontation between the ethically pragmatic (as in “morals are only fine as long as they don’t affect my bottom line”) and the downright ruthless (but with a jovial smile on their faces and a public vow of rectitude). This time Park can benefit from a much better director (Lee Myung-Woo is one of SBS’ best kept secrets, and had been wasted for a couple of years in middling fare) and a more balanced cast. Kim Ah-Joong has a lot to live up to, surrounded as she is by heavyweights like Jo Jae-Hyun (in spectacular, scary form), Choi Myung-Gil, Lee Gi-Young, Jang Hyun-Sung, Kim Eung-Soo and even young, misused prodigies like Seo Ji-Hye. But she handles her end of the bargain decently, as does Kim Rae-Won – whose reluctant machismo and pathos fit the character perfectly. You could argue that Park’s penchant for packing one shock too many into his narrative makes for a slightly overwhelming view, and that relaxing with transitional moments every now and then would only benefit characterization. But this is quality material handled with commendable effort by all involved.

EPISODES 5~10 [83/100]

Great writing transcends context and becomes narrative hypertext, linking simple storytelling to culture and history in a seamless way. It's that connection that makes Park Gyeong-Soo's work so riveting, when it manages to fire on all cylinders like in this case. Take a simple scene with two brothers sitting down before a momentous turning point: all it takes to define these characters' personality and modus operandi is looking at the way they approach their impending fate, the way the wounded prey tries to survive in the jungle. Some sacrifice themselves for the good of those they love, others do everything in their power to maintain their status quo – because, as one of the most brilliant lines in the show can attest, the only difference between justice and injustice is whether any given situation benefits you or not. But then from that short scene you can find other, delicious details – like the grit shown by Lee Tae-Joon, a classic case of nouveau riche who enriched themselves during the reckless productive rush of the Park Jung-Hee regime, often in not-so-ethical ways. For them who went from rags to riches and experienced what it means to climb all the way to the top of the mountain, going back down is not a matter of fear. It's all about pride. They're too strong to give up, too proud to make those sacrifices. So better punch their way to a “better world.” For them and them only, obviously. Take a look at this cast, even at people who generally get lost in the shuffle because they don't have what it takes to stand out, like a On Ju-Wan or Lee Young-Eun. With writing this good, and directing that doesn't intrude, their acting is elevated. That's what I'm talking about when I ask people to take dramas seriously. That goes for everyone down to the people behind and in front of the camera itself: take what you're doing seriously, and these are the results. A punch in the face of the current K-drama industry, reminding it and us all of the untapped potential it complacently decides to “sacrifice” at the altar of a “better world,” that of rampant PPL excesses and vacuous entertainment agencies driving production costs to the moon to perpetrate the pipe dream of a Hollywood of the east.

EPISODES 11~15 [79/100]

Think of it as the equivalent of being carried around the wonderland by the bus from Speed: out there you can sense, feel and hear such wondrous sights and sounds that at the end of that sensory overload you're left feeling a bit upset. Because the bus is never going to stop to let you savour them all; it's not even going to slow down in its relentless pursuit of, well, speed. Because stopping would mean disaster. If only Park Gyeong-Soo and PD Lee could spend a little more time on the proverbial “pillow shots” – the deceptively indispensable smaller slice-of-life moments that build characterization that doesn't smell like a convenient narrative device, and eventually make any big event all the more meaningful because it will feel intrinsically tied to those brief, fleeting “minutiae.” Lingering on them would probably compromise the overwhelming intensity of this show ever so slightly, but ultimately give it some thematic perspective and pathos that doesn't live and die by the cliffhanger. Because at the end of the day, what is more important to him? Park Jung-Hwan's nearly heroic struggle or the at times masturbatory need to constantly up the ante, surprise us at every corner and never drop the tension? As we speed (pun intended) towards the final act, it would be criminally misguided to suggest anything other than this is a very accomplished script – especially as far as dialogue goes, Park's eternal forte. But when it comes to truly great dramas, you're looking for that rare ability to remain compelling even when things slow down, and it seems increasingly evident that this show is a little lacking in that department. Jo Jae-Hyun is intimidatingly great, Kim Rae-Won is showing us the best acting of his career with passion the likes of which he hadn't displayed in over a decade, but in spite of all the positives Park's writing brings to the table I'm going to single out that missing 2%. The fact that he occasionally needs to slow down and let us appreciate all the charming fruits of his writing talent. On our own terms.

EPISODES 16~19 [78/100]

Almost ten years ago, in a long interview with the sadly departed webzine Dramamob, writer Jung Ha-Yeon noted how he and his colleagues will often endure an entire episode of tortuous narrative turmoil just for the opportunity of writing one great line of dialogue, or creating a scene with great pathos. Call it a writer's own sense of poetic justice, that tiny flame that keeps their excitement alive. Writing a drama like this for Park Gyeong-Soo must have been something like that, a tortuous narrative experiment that tried to hang on a thread of hope – the hope that eventually it could be allowed to have a finale like this. I'm going to give a really subjective spin to things and say that the classy but overwhelmingly optimist “and justice prevailed” finale is not my cup of tea. It just doesn't have the (pardon the pun) punch it needed, and wrapped up things a little too nicely. The journey of sacrifice and purpose Jung-Hwan went through would have redeemed him no matter what happened to Yoon Ji-Sook and Lee Tae-Joon – and the first step to truly achieve the kind of all-encompassing “justice” we might seek for our future generations begins with personal purpose and sacrifice, not with putting the villain of the week behind bars. But Park's thematic consciousness managed to shine through in spite of any qualms I might have had with the slightly vanilla conclusion, in ways that avoided becoming manipulative or excessively conventional. This remains a superior achievement particularly considering how little the industry cares about dramas that try to deliver a coherent message these days, and the fact it went out with a bang by scoring ratings that for weekday series seem now a mirage is Park's own little victory. It might not be as good as it could have been (if Park got the chance to finish that tortuous script of his before broadcast, because while this might be amongst the most accomplished “post-it scripts” I've ever seen, you can still clearly see signs of his adapting on the fly), but writing of this level now seems like more of an exception confirming the rule. And to take the spotlight off Park for a moment, it's also a pleasant reminder that actors can still make great comebacks when they find projects that matter to them: Kim Rae-Won has been on fire as of late with this and 강남1970 (Gangnam Blues), and the industry can only benefit from having B-list stars like him regain their passion for acting.

ACTING GRADES

93 조재현 (Jo Jae-Hyun)
89 김래원 (Kim Rae-Won)
89 이기영 (Lee Gi-Young)
88 김응수 (Kim Eung-Soo)
88 최명길 (Choi Myung-Gil)
86 장현성 (Jang Hyun-Sung)
84 박혁권 (Park Hyeok-Kwon)
82 송옥숙 (Song Ok-Sook)
79 김지영 (Kim Ji-Young)
78 서지혜 (Seo Ji-Hye)
75 류승수 (Ryu Seung-Soo)
70 박정우 (Park Jung-Woo)
70 김아중 (Kim Ah-Joong)
69 온주완 (On Ju-Wan)
69 김익태 (Kim Ik-Tae)
69 정동환 (Jung Dong-Hwan)
69 민성욱 (Min Seong-Wook)
67 이한위 (Lee Han-Wi)
65 이영은 (Lee Young-Eun)
64 양주호 (Yang Ju-Ho)
60 이중문 (Lee Joong-Moon)

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