[Review] Neighborhood Hero – 동네의 영웅

A SPY, A THUG, A DETECTIVE AND A WANNABE COP WALK INTO A BAR…

After losing everything during his last mission in Macau, former spy Baek Shi Yoon (Park Shi Hoo) decides to takeover a neighborhood bar after being released from prison.  He runs the bar in order to get close to the regulars.

Detective Im Tae Ho (Jo Sung Ha) moonlights as a spy in order to pay the bills and recruits Choi Chan Kyu (Lee Soo Hyuk), who aspires to join the police force.  Together, they all work to help locals against corrupt forces.

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

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

Due to his scandal, it’s been awhile since we last saw Park Shi Hoo on Korean television.  I’m not sure if it’s because he had a scandal to begin with that affected the way I view him but I have to admit that it was something that was on my mind while watching him in this drama.  He’s a decent actor but his character, Baek Shi Yoon, didn’t really stand out in any way compared to the roles he previously taken on.  Park Shi Hoo is great at being charming and witty but it felt as if he decided to play things safe by highlighting those likable attributes rather than giving his character depth.  However, Park Shi Hoo wasn’t the only issue I had with the drama or even the biggest issue I had with the drama.

The story starts off as a spy story and then takes our lead into a tale about the local underdogs fighting against the corruption and greed of the establishment.  On the offset, I can understand why the drama starts off as a spy drama.  We need to get a sense of who Baek Shi Yoon is and how he becomes the neighborhood’s hero.  I can also understand his reasoning for getting revenge as he was unfairly imprisoned for 3 years because of the failure of his mission in Macau.

The fact that these players decide to put all their efforts into taking over this tiny corner of the world and the lengths that they go to for their schemes seems a bit implausible.  I can’t help but wonder what’s so special about this land that they’d go to so much trouble.

The thing is that OCN has done this underdog/vigilante type of story before.  Immediately, Last and Hero come to mind.  They both have a more plausible follow-through regarding the storyline.  I also like that the heroes were both flawed characters who overcomes those flaws to be the symbol that the underdog needs.  Baek Shi Yoon may not be a perfect but we never really got to understand the layers in his character.

As for the other rag-tag Scooby Doo members, they all serve their expected roles as the comedy relief, family drama and other emotional characteristics.  The thing that seems to tie all of these supporting characters together is that they were all aspiring to be something.  Aspiring cop Choi Chan Kyu (Lee Soo Hyuk) views Baek Shi Yoon as a role model. Aspiring writer Bae Jung Yeon (Kwon Yu Ri) used her skills in deductive reasoning to uncover secrets.  Aspiring to be a great father for his family, Im Tae Ho (Jo Sung Ha) moonlights as a spy to earn more money but switches to helping out Baek Shi Yoon in order to rid the neighborhood of corruption.  Again, they all help Baek Shi Yoon take down the corrupt forces but so much goes on beyond saving the neighborhood that it was hard to be invested in each of their characters.

Yoon Sang Min (Yoon Tae Young) may have been one of the drama’s antagonists but in many ways, he is similar to the members on Baek Shi Yoon’s team in that he aspired to rise from street gangs of NY to become a powerful conglomerate.  I have to admit that out of all the characters in the drama I was intrigued by his character the most as it felt like there were layers of interesting backstory to discover.

We learn that he was in love with a woman and she could have been the person that might have set him on the right path.  In some ways, that backstory was compared to Baek Shi Yoon’s love life in the drama but the drama doesn’t delve beyond that.

We also learn of his solidarity with the assassin from the Macau mission and I found it interesting how he had risked that friendship for the sake of the NY Study Group, the corrupt establishment behind the plot.  However, the drama doesn’t elaborate on this any further what this sacrifice means to Yoon Sang Min as compared to the risk and sacrifice Baek Shi Yoon had to endure in the first episode.  There are some interesting parallels to be made between Baek Shi Yoon and Yoon Sang Min but none of the deeper implications are explored.

Again, it feels like they got a really great cast together but the drama is so busy with too many storylines that the main point of the drama gets lost.  I don’t think it was necessary to make Baek Shi Yoon’s spy background relevant in the present.  Rather, it’s more important that his background provided him the tools he needed to become the person that he is today.  Nor was it necessary for the drama to keep the old school spies in play.  It doesn’t make the corrupt officials less hostile if they’re not spies and you can still get your cool fight scenes in without the need to bring in the spy drama.  The drama is too concerned with the flashiness of its scenes that it’s hard for the viewer to focus on the intent of the plot.

Rating

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