Just Bananas About: Week of 7/16/12

I’m not all that into revenge plot dramas.  I try to avoid them when I can but the trailer for The Chaser just caught my eye.  It’s been given a one-episode extension followed by a special so it will end next week instead of ending this week.  Though it’s almost over, I understand that the subs for it are slow and coming so you can still try and watch it, if you wish.  I highly recommend it.

I saw comments on the Big forum on Soompi awhile back about people wondering why this drama is doing better in the ratings and since I watch both I just wanted to put my two cents in.  The two dramas are very different and it’s very hard to compare them directly in terms of quality.  In terms of numbers, Big is a trendy that’s geared towards younger audiences and younger audiences tend to watch more dramas on Wednesday and Thursdays.  Hence why I was a little surprised that it ended up being a Monday-Tuesday drama.  To understand programmers, they always want to pit shows that are very different against each other.  If you can’t attract one audience, you’ve got another that’s interested in watching something different.  I like that I can watch one and cry and watch the other and laugh.

For The Chaser, the first thing you have to notice is that the acting is ah-may-zing.  Idols beware!  These people are actors by craft and not by hobby or just another way to stay in the public image.  They are passionate about it.  I had expected the storyline to follow your usual path.  In some ways, the storyline is as how I expected it but then there are many surprising moments when the dialogue can be poetic or the plot makes some interesting commentary about our society.

Originally titled A Father’s War, the story is about a father seeking revenge for his daughter’s death and discovers that an influential person is behind the cover up.  I was a little confused by the title at first as I saw the English title and thought they were bringing the movie, The Chaser, to the small screen.  This has nothing to do with the movie as the title of the movie is Chu Kyuk Ja and the title of the drama is Chu Juck Ja.  The two words are synonyms but there’s a small yet significant difference in the words.

Son Hyun Joo plays Baek Hong Suk who is a father and a detective.  He loses his daughter, Soo Jung (Lee Hye In) in a hit and run accident and then his wife (Kim Do Yun) follows shortly thereafter resulting from a mental breakdown.

Son Hyun Joo is so great as the grieving father.  He wants to do things by the book (sort of) at first but when he sees the full scope of what he’s up against he has to try a different tactic.  His morals always stay strong.  He knows what’s right and fights for it.  Son Hyun Joo is fast becoming a male Gong Hyo Jin for me because when he cries, I cry.

Oops!  Almost forgot to mention that Son Hyun Joo makes a cameo appearance in last week’s Running Man with Kim Soo Hyun.  Politely, Kim Soo Hyun bows and introduces himself and Son Hyun Joo wishes him luck on the show.  I love that this veteran actor is super shy and steps to the side as he didn’t want to disrupt the filming.

Even Haha stops by to say what a fan he is of the drama.  Son Hyun Joo doesn’t give up Kim Soo Hyun but wishes Haha well and compliments him on the show.  Haha suggests that he make an appearance in Running Man as well!  Looks like I’ve got another ahjussi crush on my hands.  Jo Jae Yoon who plays Yong Shik smiles on from the side.

Unfortunately, things don’t go so smoothly for our hero.  He quickly goes from the chaser to being chased when he accidentally kills a vital witness in the conspiracy.

Detective Jo (Park Hyo Joo), Detective Hwang (Kang Shin Il) and gangster Park Yong Shik (Jo Jae Yoon) help Hong Suk in his quest.  Despite many obstacles which include running them over with a car or bribing them, they remain loyal to Hong Suk.

I simply love Detective Jo’s relationship with Yong Shik.  She’s on the side of the law and he’s not.  However, she’s been twice divorced and has had many more failed relationships but also has to break a couple of laws in order to help Hong Suk.  Yong Shik has never really been abiding by the law but his friendship with the crew makes him realize that his skill set is vital in finding justice for Soo Jung.  Plus his Jeollado accent makes him simply adorable.

At first, I felt sorry for Presidential Nominee Kang Dong Yoon (Kim Sang Joong) but ultimately Kim Sang Joong is so good at being that guy you love to hate.  Him and his beady little eyes.  But I swear that I love this actor!

Seo Ji Soo (Kim Sung Ryung), his wife, cheats on him and he has to live in a home where he’s the outsider.  I didn’t quite understand it.  Not that it didn’t seem logical but it’s that chaebol lifestyle which is far from what I know.  Kang Dong Yoon didn’t grow up in this world.  Rather, he had set his sights on the power money can afford him and it was that power that makes him stick with Ji Soo.  Ji Soo’s father (Park Geun Hyung) is the head of an extremely influential Korean company and he never liked Dong Yoon but he keeps him around.

At the start of the drama, Ji Soo is having an affair with an idol singer named PK Joon (Lee Yong Woo).  What’s interesting is that Soo Jung was on her way home from PK Joon’s concert when Ji Soo hits her.  Unwilling to face the fallout of a scandal, PK Joon takes over the driver seat to run over Soo Jung several times to make sure she’s dead.

Unfortunately for him, Soo Jung is strong willed and it looks like she’s going to live, especially since her doctor is her father’s friend.  Until Dong Yoon’s people get to him with an offer he just can’t pass up.

At Dong Yoon’s side is Shin Hye Ra (Jang Shin Young), the ever loyal secretary.  She and Dong Yoon have the same dream and even similar backgrounds.  She’s in love with Dong Yoon but he’s firm with her that they’ll never be anything more than platonic.  She’s willing to do whatever it takes to put Dong Yoon in office but her loyalty may end up backfiring on her.

Seo Young Wook (Jun Noh Min) returns from abroad to face the fallout of Ji Soo’s mistake.  He was exiled from Korea due to some illegal dealings which Dong Yoon had ratted out to the authorities to secure his place in certain political circles.  He’s fiercely loyal to his father but also loyal to his sister as well.  However, Ji Soo’s love for Dong Yoon, despite the coldness in their marriage, causes a rift between the siblings.

On the sidelines is Prosecutor Choi Jung Woo (Ryu Seung Soo) and Seo Ji Won (Go Joon Hee).  Jung Woo wants to do the right thing and make sure everything is done by the book but what happens when the law fails you due to corruption?  Ji Won is the youngest in President Seo’s family and her world is turned upside-down when she discovers her family’s involvement in Soo Jung’s death.  Since she’s also a reporter, she questions whether she could just report the facts even though she may be putting her family up on a pedestal for condemnation?  She’s the only one in the Seo family that didn’t condemn Dong Yoon, in fact she liked her brother-in-law.  She feels betrayed that the people she loved and trusted are the ones that she has to bring down.

What makes me love the drama is its ability to be so relevant.  In this day in age when people are still protesting in Korea about freedom of speech and the freedom to report news fairly, it’s interesting how this drama makes a point of how far and wide money and power can go.  Also, I loved the twist when Hong Suk is put on duty as Dong Yoon’s bodyguard.  Before he realized Dong Yoon’s involvement, he is at a rally where Dong Yoon gives an inspiring speech about taking power away from those that don’t deserve it and giving power back to the people.  Hong Suk assumes that it means that he wants to give power back to the masses so he gives his daughter’s life insurance money to the campaign.  That just riled up my anger and I can’t wait to see Hong Suk take Dong Yoon down!

I was also totally there for Hong Suk when he captured PK Joon and brought him over to the funeral procession.  Witnessed by his wife and all of Soo Jung’s schoolmates, Hong Suk makes this teenage idol bow before the procession.  This is his duty as a father and a detective.

Adding to the beautiful writing and acting, the soundtrack is equally beautiful.  The music director, Park Se Joon, is behind the music from dramas such as Lovers in Paris, You’re Beautiful, Shining Inheritance and 49 Days.  Apart from the instrumental tracks, my favorite two vocal tracks are Lee Hye In’s “나리꽃 (Lily)” and Kim Bum Soo’s “굳은살 (Calloused)”.  “나리꽃 (Lily)” is the theme song that Soo Jung sing for her father.  I can’t confirm this but I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that the singer and the actress playing Soo Jung have the same name and it makes the track that much more heartbreaking.  “굳은살 (Calloused)” is the theme song for Hong Suk and his quest for justice.  It’s hard not to let these tracks get to you as they are the heart of this drama.

Lee Hye In – 나리꽃 (Lily)

이혜인 – 나리꽃

Kim Bum Soo – 굳은살 (Calloused)

김범수 – 굳은살

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