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“The Man From Nowhere,” Reviewed

“The Man From Nowhere,” Reviewed (photo)

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On the basis of its three films at Fantastic Fest, I think it’s time someone had a talk with South Korea about its self-image problem. This country is making some phenomenal movies but boy is it down on itself. The Korean contingent at this festival portrays itself as a place where everyone is either a vicious bloodthirsty psychopath or an innocent victim waiting to be defiled by a vicious bloodthirsty psychopath. Consider the brutal revenge thriller “The Man From Nowhere.” The title suggests Leone, but Leone never made something this bleak, unless my memory’s hazy and “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” included a subplot about Eastwood trying to shut down a child organ harvesting ring.

The Eastwood figure here is named Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin). His foo-foo haircut and rippling physique scream K-pop star, but the jagged scars on his knuckles whisper something in your ear about a violent past. Cha lives a quiet life as the most intense pawn shop owner in history until the day the adorable little girl who lives upstairs is kidnapped by drug dealers angry with her mother for stealing their product. The gangsters blackmail Cha, then frame him and leave him for the cops but Cha busts out of jail and goes on a quest to save his neighbor and make the people who took her pay.

Note that he doesn’t wait to prove his innocence (which probably wouldn’t be that difficult). Cha, like basically everyone else in the Korean movies I saw here at Fantastic Fest, has no faith in the police. Cops in these films are inadequate to the needs of society. If you want to get something done, you better be ready to do it yourself. And you better not be afraid to spill some blood. And I mean a lot of blood. If “The Man From Nowhere,” “I Saw the Devil,” and “Bedevilled” are any indication and the laws of supply and demand mean anything at all, Karo syrup must be the most valuable commodity in all of Korea.

Unlike “I Saw the Devil,” which mucks around with revenge picture’s standard format and morality, “The Man From Nowhere” basks in the conventions of the genre. What elevates the typical material is the atypical ferocity of its execution. At one point, Cha takes out one of the gangsters’ facilities by rigging a slow gas leak and setting off an enormous explosion. The gesture feels symbolic of Cha and the film’s rage about the crappy state of the world, as pressure building slowly to a massive white-hot eruption. This is an angry movie about an angry man, but the intensity of Won Bin’s performance makes Cha an easy guy to root for. Won’s tremendous, and he’s even better when you realize that he’s the same actor who played the mentally handicapped son in Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother.” Won is clearly more than a one trick pony of smolder and rage.

“The Man From Nowhere” is directed by Lee Jung-beom. I’ll be looking forward to whatever he makes next. There are scenes — a Leone-esque standoff across a crowded techno club, a savage knife fight — and shots — Cha runs through a hallway, dives through a window, and jumps to the street below and the camera follows him the whole way — that have already taken permanent residence in the Movie Hall of Fame section of my brain. Maybe someday American audiences will get to see the lighter side of Korean cinema. In the meantime, there’s no denying these dark films’ power. The man might be from nowhere, but the movies could only come from Korea.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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