Friday, November 16, 2012

Kdrama Review: Nice Guy (2012)

Nice Guy; Innocent Man
세상 어디에도 없는 차칸남자

It’s 3:00 am in the morning, and I can’t sleep.  I’d like to blame my having watched the series finale of Nice Guy, but sadly I think it’s just my insomnia kicking in.  It’s been a few hours.  I think I can be as objective.  It not, well then you can blame my insomnia.
Nice Guys Finish Last.  Yes or no? See my answer beyond the ‘Spoilers’ mark.  Nice Guy the Kdrama though certainly finishes high up there in my books.  Actually upon finishing episode 20, my instinctual thought was to rate this 8/10.  Then I looked at the other 8’s on Mydramalist, and okay, if I only gave an 8 to City Hunter, then Nice Guy was obviously better than that.
This makes me want to review how I even come up with ratings.   Objectively (which I like to think I mostly am) I look at acting, directing, and most importantly writing.  Subjectively (which, pardon me, I just killed an angsty 3:00am roach; Die fiend! Die!) I have to consider an overall and collective feeling, which leads me to objectively ignore the last few mostly boring episodes, for proximity’s sake, and realize as a whole (wow this is confusing), just what Nice Guy meant to me. 

Nice Guy meant a whole lot to me.  It’s also jam-packed with some of the best collective acting I’ve seen from a Kdrama cast.  And the directing was spot on (when I figure out how I judge a director’s abilities, I’ll let you know).  The story and plot progression, however, is what I believe made this entire show.  The pacing is phenomenal.   I only ended up marathoning the first 4 episodes before catching up to its actual airtime schedule, and since then I haven’t missed a single Wednesday/Thursday evening viewing.  Why?  Because this show successfully kept me completely intrigued for 20 hours!  Yes, City Hunter was a marathon-worthy drama for its crazy plot, but Nice Guy offers far more than mere plot:  It’s literally serving you up a tray of scrumptious characterizations of recognizable human beings, played by a more than adequately-convincing cast.  Putting aside for the moment the majkang premise, these actors conveyed with ease a storyline that is simultaneously stimulating and watchable. 

I’ll try to move from the vague to the specific:  Let’s start with Song Joong Ki, our starring role.  Also commendable as a second lead role: Song Joong Ki’s eyes.  I think they are literally two separate entities.  When one character became too mushy, the second made us pause, and cower in fear.  How about Moon Chae Won:  I must confess I have never really appreciated any of her previous roles.  I was never even sure if she herself was such a great actress, but with a good script, she became alive for me for the first time.   And Park Si Yeon:  I know most people only love to hate her, but it takes some skill to portray a character as outwardly evil as Han Jae Hee while still emoting a sense of fragility.  My hat’s off as well to the array of side characters:  Never before have I appreciated the stereotypical ne’er-do-well character played by Yang Ik Jun as Jae Hee’s brother, Han Jae Shik.  One usually expects a one-dimensional interpretation from these types of hapless side-characters, but like the rest of Nice Guy’s roster, Jae Shik comes out looking just as a real and distinctive a human being.


Let’s talk about the ending for a minute. 

Is there such a thing as nice guys?  If you believe the last ten minutes of Nice Guy, then yes.  Our innocent man gets his woman, and apparently everyone lives happily ever after, except for the people who did bad things, and then they just suffer a time-jump in jail, and look marginally sadder than before.  The ends justify the means, or whatever that even means. 

I have a problem with this ending, and let’s just by-pass the “ehhh???”-infused stab wound PLUS brain hemorrhage-surgery PLUS memory-loss factors.  (I know, I know. That’s already a lot to ignore; just bear with me.)  I hate cop-out endings more than anything else in the Dramaworld, and what bugs me most is that I’m not even sure Nice Guy’s writers gave us all those happy endings because they honestly planned it that way from the beginning, or if they just decided that after all this time Maru and Eun Gi really deserved some happiness in the form of projected marital bliss.   Either way, I feel cheated.  I thought I was watching a melodrama, and instead I got a fairy-tale ending.  That’ll teach me not to think I know Kdrama genre.  (For extra enlightenment on the definition of makjang, see Electric Ground’s somewhat hilarious definition post.  I for one, ate makjang just the other day, according to one dictionary term.)

The rainbow and unicorn-ending won’t ultimately change my opinion of Nice Guy.  Unless I wake up (in about 2 hours) a completely different person, and then you will see a huge EDIT – I HATE THIS sign in bold red letters.  But I’m genuinely happy that I watched this drama, and have enjoyed my two-episode a week max, as it gave me plentiful time to fret and worry about what would happen next.  (Think my entire Harry Potter obsession, but instead of some 6-odd years of theorizing about horcruxes, this only kept me occupied for 8 weeks – and thank goodness for that!)

 Back to Nice Guy:  Any thoughts?


  1. You're right Song Joong Ki's eyes were definitely something ^^
    And frankly, I like the actress who played Jae Hee (i'll look into her dramas). When an actor makes me hate their character to the core, it means that their doing a great job portraying their role. and the end... *sigh* I didn't expected to be so happy. I didn't want Ma Ru to die, but I wouldn't mind it either if he actually did. But instead we got memory loss, again :/

    btw, I think I'm currently watching a makjang xD though, I'm sure since, it's the first one I'm watching =)

    1. I sort of had an inkling that it might be fairly happy.. it's just that they did it on such short notice. When EG lost her memory, we saw her take baby steps to recover. With Maru, we have maybe 3 minutes to 'recover' his love with EG, and his possibly remembering her after all by the very end..? On the other hand, if they'd drawn that part out longer.. I would also probably be annoyed because it's the sammme thing.. so I don't know how that needed to have ended. It's just weird.

  2. you are right, the happy ending seems weird because we were never prepared for it. I am - at this moment - willing to call this bad writing. Or at least it's just ignoring all the rules of good writing for some kind of emotional gratification. It could be considered a fan-service, but is it really? I also adore this drama for its acting and I would have said the writing, but the sudden twist towards bliss feels wrong. I think a semi-happy (or open) ending or, god forbid, a really tragic ending would have had a far bigger impact

    1. I'm leaning on 'fan-service' emotional gratification right now. Just seeing the number of viewers out there who are tickled to death about the ending.. And I'm just, emotionally void, which sort of maks me sad. Maybe because I was prepared for a tragic tearjerker (I secretly love a tearjearker!) and I got gipped. I even had the tissue box on standby! Still, I mean they did it a faairly decent way.. It could have been worse (of a happy ending) but again.. I had no time to really process it all. :/

  3. I didn't read your spoilers because I probably will watch this drama sometime in the near future, but the rest of your review made me really interested in it. I wasn't planning on watching this one before, but I think you've changed my mind.

  4. Now that I finally watched the ending, I came back to read!

    I've been thinking about my drama rating system lately, too. I sort of want to go back through every single review I've ever written an recalibrate the letter grades, with Coffee Prince being A and Secret Garden being F. My grading is utterly inflated (c is supposed to be average, right?), and the letters are almost totally arbitrary. Oops. =X

    I completely agree about Nice Guy's ending. It was nice that people got a fresh start, but I hated Ma Ru's amnesia being used as a get-out-of-jail-free card. It seems more influenced by the current drama trend for reincarnation than anything resembling the real world. It's tricky to come up with a satisfying finale for a dark drama, but it can be done: look at Que Sera Sera. It had a happy ending that allowed its characters to grow and change and benefit from their mistakes, rather than being magically wiped clean. Still, I really enjoyed Nice Guy. (And that Song Joon Ki! Beautiful as a flower, and a good actor, too.)

    1. Rating systems are human, and therefore flawed (like NG!). That's my theory anyways. I thought about it briefly before starting the blog - and in the end settled on the 1-10 scale so I wouldn't have to recalibrate differently than MDL. Plus, I honestly like have 10 different numeral terms to play with.

      Wow, I just wrote another paragraph under here on ratings.. but I think I'll just save it for a blog post later this week. Haha!

      Reincarnation.. I genuinely like the trend when it's done well. (For example.. watch NEXT - it's seriously one of my favorite dramas, and almost Nobody has seen it! Makes me want to cry.. ) Still, I didn't like it in NG.. Unless you can believe some of the hints, and go with "Well by the time Maru proposed, he had the original set of 'couple rings', plus liking her baking despite everyone else's distaste, so.. he must have remembered her." Maybe so, maybe not. But with a 5 minute conclusion, I think it's still pretty indecicive. I had to seriously step back from the ending to think overall. Still, NG did sooo many things right (aka, uber creative and spastastic) therefore.. I still love it. :)