Just Bananas About: Week of 2/1/16

There’s been a number of new cable dramas that started up recently. And last week marks Park Shi Hoo’s return to Korean television in the OCN drama, Neighborhood Hero. He plays Baek Shi Yoon, a former spy, who decides to run a local bar after losing everything after his last mission. He ends up helping the locals with their problems.

Eluphant – 외줄타기 (feat. DJ Juice) (Tightrope Walking (feat. DJ Juice))

이루펀트(Eluphant) – 외줄타기 (feat. DJ Juice)

Im Tae Ho (Jo Sung Ha) is a detective who moonlights as a spy in order to pay the bills. Choi Chan Kyu (Lee Soo Hyuk) aspires to join the police force and is recruited by Tae Ho to help him with his moonlighting gig.

Shi Yoon takes over the bar from Mr. Hwang (Song Jae Ho), a wise, old entrepreneur, who has always run the place as a relaxing haven for his customers. However, the locals at this bar are a bit unusual. Their regulars include a magician and a former spy and even Mr. Hwang, who has a lot of information about his strange clientele, seems to know more about Shi Yoon’s history than he is letting on.

Shi Yoon needs to figure out what lead to the death of his colleague, Jin Woo (Ji Il Woo), but Mr. Hwang is reluctant to help if Shi Yoon is seeking revenge for Jin Woo’s death. Instead of giving in to Shi Yoon, Mr. Hwang seems to be nudging Shi Yoon in a different direction that might give him what he didn’t think he needed.

The neighborhood seems to be dealing with a gang who has been targeting local businesses and civilians in order to make way for a huge land development deal. The gang members scare the locals in order to prevent customers from supporting the businesses and forcing the business owners to close shop and move out.

Meanwhile, Tae Ho is ordered to tail a certain individual and sends Chan Kyu to log everything the guy is doing, where and when.

Chan Kyu does as he’s told but unfortunately, he’s not very good at the job as the guy knows he’s being tailed and let’s Chan Kyu come along for the ride.

However, when the guy ends up dead, Tae Ho comes to the conclusion that he may have bitten off more than he could chew.

What’s even more, when he does something outside of his boss’ directive, he is severely punished.

Tae Ho gets back on the track and when he’s called to help out at a local business, he is surprisingly cold and finds no fault with the gang perpetrators.  It’s clear that he doesn’t feel good about what he did to the business woman so he returns later to support the establishment with his family.

As for Bae Jung Yeon (Kwon Yu Ri), she’s an waitress at the bar who aspires to become a screenwriter. She loves working for Mr. Hwang as he’s kind and generous but she gets off on the wrong foot with Shi Yoon. She surmises that there’s something about him that seems untrustworthy but it’s not something that she can put a finger on.

When she and her friend are threatened by the gang members, Shi Yoon comes in to save the day, wearing a face mask and cap.

Intrigued, she wonders if there’s something in their near vicinity that’s helping them out. She mistakenly pinpoints Chan Kyu as he has a face mask and is wearing the same hat.

Confused, he’s not sure why Jung Yeon is interested in him but he doesn’t dislike it. He also seems to like the idea of a vigilante helping out the locals and decides to help a guy who is being beat up on the street.

He stumbles on a fight scene between the real vigilante and a bunch of gang members as the masked hero takes them out one by one. The guy takes off the mask to reveal that it’s Shi Yoon.

OCN is pretty much known for its male-driven dramas which are thrilling, action-packed and most often dark in nature. Neighborhood Hero does seem to fit the brand but I think what’s different is that the drama also seems to have a wry wittiness that I’m liking about the show. I do know that the show will be about Shi Yoon, Chan Kyu and Tae Ho all banding together to help the locals but I do feel that the first few episodes took a little long to set up this story.

I see that the drama does often go back in time to show Shi Yoon and his team members on missions in Macau as well as the romance between Seo Ahn (Choi Yoon So) and himself. They’re probably showing us this in order to reveal something else in the drama but I have to admit that I’m bored by it.

It’s clearly understood that Shi Yoon and Seo Ahn had feelings for each other, even if it wasn’t a full blown relationship. Perhaps, Jin Woo also had feelings for Seo Ahn. Did that affect the team dynamic in some way? There are still a lot of questions but unless there’s an significant payoff as to why their team was ambushed, I’m not sure as to the reason why they’re dragging out the present day story.

The drama has identified a few of the antagonists and as to what they’ve revealed so far, I’m hooked. However, until we find out more about what drives them and the connections between the players, I’ll have to reserve my judgement. I’m intrigued enough to see where the story will lead us.

Because of his scandal, it’s been a few years since we last saw Park Shi Hoo. As an actor, I liked that he hasn’t changed that much. He’s good at playing up the drama and being intensely emotional as well as being lighthearted and witty.

As for Jo Sung Ha, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw him in a lighthearted drama and Romance Town comes to mind. While Neighborhood Hero does have its dark moments, Jo Sung Ha’s have been mostly lively and I’m not used to seeing that side of him. Even in Romance Town, he played a stoic character. He so talented that I’m sure he can handle the role and I hope that he will have a lot of playful scenes in the future.

Another actor, whom I’m not used to playing up the comedy is Lee Soo Hyuk. I realize that he’s done the sitcom, Vampire Idol, and the comedy movie, Detective Cha, but Lee Soo Hyuk’s usually not the one in the cast looking silly. I’m quite loving his doofus character Chan Kyu and now that he knows that Shi Yoon is the vigilante, I want to see how they’ll come to team up. Something makes me think that Chan Kyu will remind Shi Yoon of Jin Woo but as for right now, I’m looking forward to the bromance.

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