The eight episode series My Name (마이 네임) is Netflix’s latest Korean drama production trying to upend the typical conventions of local television. The cinematic thriller is powered by Han So Hee’s bold performance and just pure, unadulterated heart-pounding pulp. Something you definitely don’t see on Korean television. Even if the series is filled with all-too-familiar themes and scenarios, My Name is still a gripping and fast-paced adrenaline rush.
After her father is murdered right outside their front door, Yoon Ji Woo (Han So Hee) vows revenge and ends up joining the drug syndicate her father himself was a member of. Choi Mu Jin (Park Hee Soon) is the boss of the Dongcheonpa gang and had always considered Ji Woo’s father Dong Hoon (the always dependable Yoon Kyung Ho) his closest friend.
Mu Jin prepares Ji Woo for her quest for revenge by giving her a new identity and helping her eventually join the police department to serve as a mole for their drug ring. This will allow Ji Woo the opportunity to dig into potential culprits within the police force.
Ji Woo, now Hye Jin, works with new partner Jeon Pil Do (Ahn Bo Hyun) in the narcotics division of the force. And she quickly begins to unravel the truth behind her father’s death. This while she must deal with the threat of Do Gang Jae (a magnetic Chang Ryul), a former Dongcheonpa member with an axe to grind with her and Mu Jin, whom she grows to trust.
The series unfolds over the eight episodes in brisk fashion. Scenes of bloody battles involving all kinds of weapons and hand-to-hand combat are pierced by scenes of broody introspection. Set amidst a dark, gritty backdrop, it is an interestingly jarring, yet natural contrast that adds to the series’ kinetic flow.
In many ways, My Name is a typical revenge story, complete with crime, corruption and betrayal. The copious amounts of blood, however, certainly set it apart from anything seen on Korean broadcast and cable television. And the unflinching action sequences rival any big Hollywood blockbuster. They are truly exciting and dynamic scenes that combine unpredictability with highly choreographed moves and careful direction.
But what really elevates My Name is the performance of its cast. Most especially leading lady Han So Hee.
As Ji Woo/Hye Jin, Han So Hee delivers a truly bold and fearless performance of such a rough, deglamorized character. This is very much a different side of her compared to the roles she has been seen in so far in her career. The balance of the character’s vulnerability with certified no-holds-barred badassery is a feat that not many actors can accomplish. But she does so here in what is a truly eye-opening and affecting revelation of a performance.
When many of the story’s beats feel overly familiar or even predictable, Han So Hee’s performance makes you forget about those feelings and gets you lost in each thrilling, edge of your seat moment. Just an amazingly powerful performance.
The rest of the cast has no problem keeping up as well. Park Hee Soon as drug boss Mu Jin tackles his character with a nuance that is absolutely necessary to the success of the story. A sense of mystery coupled with the question of genuine sincerity or nefarious motives is possible thanks to his performance.
The same can be said for Lee Hak Joo as Mu Jin’s right hand man Tae Ju and Kim Sang Ho as narcotics division captain Cha Gi Ho. Careful nuance in their performance help keep you guessing even if things may seem more obvious than they are.
Ahn Bo Hyun, long deserving of more lead roles, shows exactly why that’s the case here. Strong and charismatic, he is able to make Pil Do more than just a simple detective. And with that depth, a great chemistry with Han So Hee that in turn helps add to her character as well.
And Chang Ryul deserves special mention as exiled gang member Do Gang Jae in what is a striking, scene-stealing role that will have you checking your morals with every episode he’s on.
These eight episodes fly by quickly. It truly feels like a cinematic experience both visually and narratively-speaking. Maintaining a good balance of bloody action with legitimate character moments help keep the series together when it could have easily gone off the rails several times.
Ultimately, it is that excellent direction and even more captivating performances (especially from Han So Hee) that elevate My Name to being something truly worth a watch.