THE MAGNIFICENT SEOUL SEVEN
Jung Tae Ho (Yoon Kye Sang) is a fund manager who loses 350 million won in a financial deal gone wrong. When loan sharks, whose money he lost, comes after him, he and his business partner attempt to go on the run but his partner ends up losing his life. Desperate and broke, he discovers that Seoul Station is a haven for homeless people, complete with their own set of rules and hierarchy overseen by mob boss, Kwak Heung Sam (Lee Bum Soo). Tae Ho vows to claw his way back up from poverty.
DinDin, Hea Rang – Do It
The drama starts off slowly with Tae Ho’s fall from grace. He’s lost someone else’s money, his girl but he never loses the will to survive. I have always felt that that was the strength to Yoon Kye Sang’s acting and it what draws viewers to root for his characters.
There’s a simple, yet powerful scene that shows his drive. Tae Ho is poor and hungry but finds someone’s leftover, delivery scraps that’s waiting to be picked up. He reaches out towards the plate but his pride prevents him from eating it. Later on, after missing the soup kitchen hours several times, he finds 5,000 won bill, enough for one meal. Even though he’s threatened by a mobster, Tae Ho’s will to survive overrides any logic and that hunger is what drives him to pick himself up from rock bottom.
Tae Ho’s drive is not unlike that of Kwak Heung Sam’s, and that’s the thing that unites these two characters. I’m used to seeing Lee Bum Soo use his commanding charisma to play gritty roles such as Heung Sam. However, I did find it hard to get into the drama until I began to see the other side of Heung Sam’s personality. As much as Heung Sam can be fearful, behind the mask of a monster, there’s a hurt boy whose only reason for living is avenging the wrongful death of his father.
We also learn of the love triangle between him, Madame Seo (Park Ye Jin) and Mr. Ryu (Park Won Sang) and that triangle creates a tricky environment about how the three interact with each other. Between Heung Sam and Mr. Ryu, they always have had a somewhat of a mutual respect for each other, especially when Heung Sam takes over as the head of the Seoul Station gang.
Madame Seo has long-held feelings for Mr. Ryu and wants to run away with him and leave this seedy world. It’s an unusual relationship as she was brought into the fold when she was only a teenager so Mr. Ryu still continues to see her as a child even though it’s been many years since.
And yet, she is also Heung Sam’s companion and serves him by using her feminine charms on potential targets. Heung Sam lets the other two do what they want to as long as they don’t interfere with him and his leadership.
Heung Sam has had to fend for himself at a very young age because of his father’s death. Even though he’s grown up around the people of Seoul Station, it doesn’t seem like he’s ever associated himself as being one of them. For him, it’s a stepping stone to a bigger purpose. It’s all about attaining wealth and prestige through underhanded methods and through this, he hasn’t exactly made friends by wielding his power like his personal weapon. He’s quite the interesting character and not unlike some of the dark characters Daniel Day-Lewis has played over the years, such as Bill the Butcher.
In addition to actors above, there are a lot of great characters in the drama. Such as, Cha Hae Jin (Gong Hyung Jin) who spots Tae Ho’s talent very early on to Chairman Jung (Jung Jong Joon) who wavers back and forth from lucidness to the fantasy world he’s created in his mind to Gong Young Chil (Ahn Se Ha) the techie who has just been unable to secure a job.
The mobsters who make up the ranking of the Seoul Seven are also colorful as well starting from their names such as: Venomous Snake (Lee Chul Min), Crocodile (Jang Won Young), Sergeant Bae (Kim Young Woong) and Grass Cutter (Yoon Je Moon).
However, I think the most interesting was Praying Mantis (Kim Hyung Kyu). Incredibly loyal to Heung Sam, every task that Praying Mantis took on was to serve his boss. Using his powers of stealth and deadly force, he would easily lay his life on the line for Heung Sam. And yet, there is a part of me that believes that his loyalty extends from the fact that Heung Sam had saved Praying Mantis. Unfortunately, we don’t really learn much about his backstory, other than the hospital where he grew up and the fact that he’s an orphan. It would have added another generational level of comparison between that of Heung Sam and Tae Ho.
When it comes to Shin Na Ra (Seo Ye Ji), I think the drama sorely misses the boat on the purpose of her character. She doesn’t really add much to the story nor is she very interesting that made me want to get invested in her story. In fact, I felt her portrayal of her moralistic character to be boring and didn’t feel that she and Yoon Kye Sang had any chemistry as OTP’s. I like Seo Ye Ji as an actress but the purpose of character felt unnecessary in the drama as a whole.
While I found it a bit hard to get into the drama at first, I kept watching because there were a lot of great characters actors in it. Ultimately, the drama is about the sociological system that rules over the folks at Seoul Station. They are prisoners, rulers and enforcers of that system and each of the characters added an interesting dynamic to the world of Seoul Station. There are sections of the plotline that’s clunky in its execution and drags the pace of the drama but these characters actors are great at making you overlook some of those blips.