My Name review: Han So-hee ratchets up heart-racing tension as gangster-slash-cop

Han So-hee as Yoon Ji-woo in My Name. (Photo: Netflix)
Han So-hee is out for revenge in My Name. (Photo: Netflix)

Director: Kim Ba Da
Cast: Han So Hee, Yoon Kyung Ho, Park Hee Soon, Kim Sang Ho, Ahn Bo Hyun,
Language: Korean with various subtitles

Streaming on Netflix from 15 October 2021

3.5 out of 5 stars

How many stabs from a dagger does it take to kill a police captain, or a mafia boss?

Squid Game has been the talk of the town recently, but cold-blooded vengeance K-drama My Name has arrived to displace it by perching its violent gangster tropes comfortably on the Netflix No. 1 spot.

My Name doesn't hold back when it comes to violence. After all, most of its scenes involve tattooed gangsters with sharp implements hacking away at harried looking deskbound cops and other gangsters from rival gangs.

So it behooves me to say that actress Han So-hee looks painfully out of place in this drama - a scrawny, slender girl with barely any meat on her bones taking on muscled men twice her size and beating them into submission, with nary a scratch on her.

She plays Yoon Ji-woo, a girl whose father Yoon Dong-hoon (Yoon Kyung-ho) is brutally murdered in front of her home by an unknown assailant. Ji-woo walls off her emotions and steels herself to take revenge, and begs the biggest mafia boss Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon) to take her into his drug crime group, Dongcheonpa.

Han So-hee definitely lends an authentic tortured-orphaned girl look to Ji-woo as she punches, stabs and guns her way through life, underground fighting pits and drug rings in order to find her beloved father's killer. Those acting scenes from Nevertheless with heartthrob Song Kang must have helped loads.

Park Hee-soon's charisma and enigmatic charm as an underworld boss of a large drug cartel is impressive and reminiscent of Tony Leung's performance in Shang Chi, as he takes Ji Woo into his care, training her in the arts of gangster fighting with the sole purpose of molding her into a killer to take down her father's assassin.

The real action happens when Ji-woo eventually becomes a police corporal and joins the Narcotics Division under the pudgy and balding Captain Cha Gi-ho (Kim Sang-ho) as a double agent. She continues to feed information to Choi Mu-jin while remaining convincingly undercover, even daring to strike up a covert romance with her superior, Sergeant Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun).

Director Kim Ba-da definitely does tension well, if not so much violence. Ji-woo's precarious situation as a mole in the police force does induce heart palpitations and sweaty hands, particularly in one scene where the narcotics team launches a surprise raid on her benefactor Choi Mu-jin's floating drug factory with Ji-woo in tow, fully intent on catching the drug lord with his hand in the cookie jar.

Where director Kim falls flat in are his action scenes, which involve lots of wild flailing, gratuitous stabbing and squelching noises. And even after being stabbed 11 times in the liver, the victim still survives and is back in action without much preamble or pretence of recovery.

It's easy to see how My Name has shot up to No. 1. It's action-packed and is never short on much needed heart-racing tension and a tightly scripted, fast paced plot to get the adrenaline going. Just skip the wanton stabbing scenes if they make you feel squeamish.

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