Antagonists make or break narratives. Without an interesting villain to rally against, the hero (or anti-hero) loses their defining sparkle. That darkness defines the light is something that Korean revenge drama My Name fully understands.
What Is My Name About?
Darkness quickly descends upon troubled teenager Yoon Ji-woo (Han So-hee), thanks to absentee drug dealing father, Dong-hoon (Yoon Kyung-ho).
Bullying makes her school days hell, and when she unloads on him after a rare phone call (to wish her happy birthday) he slips past the watching police to visit her.
Yet his emergence from the shadows is poorly chosen and he is murdered by a mysterious assailant right in front of his daughter.
Thus kicks off an impressively gritty revenge thriller that will take in blood splattered hazing, gangster loyalty, police infiltration, and a hefty amount of thrilling fight scenes.
Bolstered by a strong cast, My Name is a satisfying crunch to the temple, before getting rather punch drunk as the clock runs out.
A connection is quickly formed between Ji-woo and crime boss Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon), who angrily growls that Dong-hoon was like a brother to him.
With the police investigation dropped, Ji-woo puts herself in increasing danger to find her father’s killer, including berating the dangerous Mu-jin.
My Name doesn’t dance around the edges here and nor does So-hee’s grit-laden performance. Under Mu-jin’s wing she learns how to fight, but struggles to prove herself (or defend herself) within his organisation.
Her rise to dangerously capable fighter is a satisfying watch, especially as it involves beating the hell out of some highly unsavoury characters, like the lecherous and bitter Do Gang-jae (Chang Ryul).
To further add to the tension, My Name throws in an Infernal Affairs angle (which was remade as The Departed in the West) in that with the killer potentially identified as a cop, Ji-woo is given a new identity and enrolled in the police to act as both mole and seeker of justice.
My Name Official Trailer
Is My Name Worth Watching?
I’ve committed the cardinal sin of review writing here: simply repeating the plot. Frankly such a set up is hardly unique, but so much happens in the first two episodes that this much explanation is needed for context.
As a consequence My Name unfortunately front loads itself and leaves a back end that over relies on snipped flashbacks to fill up the space, clunkily set you on emotional rails, and also gloss over the fact that you’ve probably figured out the big reveal already.
This doesn’t ruin the show but does undercut what is a fantastic clutch of characters and actors. Given all the trauma and rage hoisted on her, So-hee carries the darkness excellently, even if the more subtle moments are less assured.
Park Hee-soon is a glorious crime boss who exudes the potential for explosive violence beneath his rugged demeanour. Crucially, he also has the depth of an ocean; eddies of suppressed emotion and complicated expressions flow over his face like the tide.
Despite the escalating unlikeliness from the plot, the mole-in-the-police plotline is frequently tense, with Ji-woo often on the verge of being found out.
This is bolstered by a star turn from cop Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun) whose initial cocksure swagger gives way to painful vulnerability and helps sustain the moments where So-hee’s closed off expressions struggle to connect.
My Name is a fulfilling revenge that, despite being a little overstretched over its already short 8 episodes, lands many powerful blows to your weak spots.
Well choreographed and edited fight scenes make for visceral action sequences, and a balanced combination of talent makes you care whose blood is being spilled in volume.
Loyalty is everything, and My Name will give plenty for yours.
Words by Mike Record