Neighborhood Hero (K-drama) First Impression

First Episode Summary: The story drops the viewers in the middle of a spy mission in Macau involving agent Baek Shi-yoon (Park Shi-hoo,) Jin-woo (Ji Il-joo) and Seo-an (Choi Yoon-So.) In the middle of the mission, team leader, Jung Soo-hyuk (Jeong Man-sik,) suddenly aborts it.

The action sequence reminds me of Ocean’s trilogy and a lot of American series, which is typical of OCN. It works well in some scenes, but at times, it seems lame. The scene before the time skip is well done and although I have only known Jin-woo for mere minutes, I am sadden that we won’t be able to see him again.

The story jumps 3 years. I am left wondering how Shi-yoon have arrived to his current situation.

The scene moves to Im Tae-ho’s (Cho Seong-ha) family, which is quite cute. Tae-ho is a father/cop struggling to provide for all of his family’s lifestyle. Surprised by his drunken expensive buy, Tae-ho goes to the Neighborhood Bar. We are then introduced to writer Bae Jung-Yeon (Kwon Yuri) and the Neighborhood Bar’s owner, President Hwang (Song Jae-ho.) At the bar, Tae-ho weasels his way out of paying the mark-up for the alcohol he have ordered the previous night.

Later that day, Shi-yoon shows up at the bar while President Hwang is negotiating the sale of the bar. We know throughout the course of the episode that he is planning some sort of revenge. I like that he doesn’t have a clear enemy and that he must solve the mystery first. The first step in his plan is to gather information at the Neighborhood Bar, which is a local hangout for agents. During his reconnaissance, he encounters problem between Jung-yoen’s friend, So-mi, and Yoon Sang-min’s (Yoon Tae-young) thugs. Sang-min is seeking to evict the neighbors in order to build the Hallyu Core Mall. A masked Shi-joon beats up the dug and saves the two girls. Near the end of the episode, he takes over as owner of the bar.

In the meanwhile, Tae-ho seeks out an old and very shady friend who works as a sub-contractor for the government. He opens up a business that monitors retired agents. He hires police trainee Choi Chan-gyoo (Lee Soo-hyuk) and two other employees. Chan-gyoo clumsily tails his mark, Seo Joon-suk (Kang Nam-kil,) an agent who have warned Shi-yoon three years ago to stop the Macau mission.

Comments: Park Shi-hoo adds a wonderful presence and charm to his character. The only fault I could find in his acting is when he’s talking to his cellmate or when he pretends to be an average guy. It may be intentional, but when he tries to act innocent, it’s like an amateur theater actor pretending to be an actor. I get that his outside persona is supposed to be fake, but I am not convinced. If this is intentional, the director/actor is leaning toward a more lighthearted direction in order to contrast the dark and cynical nature underneath. I don’t know if I like that technique. I think Simon Baker does this well in the Mentalist, but his character was a TV psychic who entertains while Shi-yoon was a spy. I am only nitpicking since I know he is a very good actor.

Tae-ho is the best character and Cho Seong-ha is the best actor in the show so far. No one is more unpredictable and more thought out than Tae-ho. On top of my head, I can only remember having the same sort of uneasiness from Joo Ji-tae’s character in Healer. Cho Seong-ha displays some top-notch acting. *Bows*

Lee Soo-hyuk is very good in his role. Like Park Shi Hoo, he has a very distinctive feature that makes it very easy for people to recognize. He has the markings of a male lead character.

Mr. President, writer Bae and the rest of the casts are good, but I keep my focus attention on the three lead male characters.

Conclusion: The story-line and acting are seamless. The best thing about NH isn’t the action, but the underlying mystery and various connections between the characters. (My impressions are based on the first four episodes.)


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