03 May 2021

K Drama Review: Vincenzo (2021)

It's been some time since I last watched Song Joong Ki. So, yes, I really missed him. He made such a huge impact on me that even if I only watched him on Descendants of the Sun, he already made it on my list

I was thrilled to know that Song Joong Ki had a new drama. But I admit that I was wary when I found out that it was about a Korean consiglieri. I was concerned that he might not pull it off. But he proved me wrong because he did a brilliant job. :)

Plot


Vincenzo tells the story of a Korean boy (Song Joong Ki) who was given up by his mother for adoption when he was 9. He was adopted by an Italian family and he went on to become the consiglieri of a mafia family. He took up the name Vincenzo Cassano. 

Several years later and after the Cassano family's head died, Vincenzo went back to Korea. His mission was to retrieve gold under Geumga Plaza, an old building that he owned. That would appear simple had it not been for the fact that a big conglomerate, Babel, was interested in buying the building for redevelopment. It also didn't help that the current tenants refused to leave. 

The simple mission evolves into a complicated one as Vincenzo gets entangled in the quest for justice of the tenants and the victims of Babel.  

Song Joong Ki

First off, let me just say that Song Joong Ki is aging very, very gracefully. Well, the truth is, he does not seem to age at all. 

But Song Joong Ki is not just getting better physically. You will also be impressed at the solid performance you'll see from him in this drama. 

As expected, Song Joong Ki pulled off the sleek and cool parts of Vincenzo. I super loved that first hearing he attended where he arrived in a flashy sports car. And the way he made his grand entrance (with matching brushing off his hair) as a witness during the second hearing. I loved how he always remained calm even in the midst of danger. And he even has that deep and sexy voice to complete the package. 

I've seen Song Joong Ki do some fight scenes in DOTS but what he did here as Vincenzo was on a totally different level. The first episode alone wowed me with the way he burned that vineyard. Then the awesome way he beat the three assassins sent by Babel's chairman, Jang Han Seok (Ok Taecyeon of Dream High and Wonderful Days), in a tunnel on episode 10. And how he manhandled everyone by himself after his mother (Yoon Bok In of Hot Stove League) was killed. And how he saved the day at the Plaza when he supposedly left for Italy. And of course, the brutal and gruesome way he killed the main villains Han Seok and Choi Myung Hee (Kim Yeo Jin of Worlds Within). 

Song Joong Ki was a very credible mafioso. And Vincenzo was a consiglieri to the core. He was strategic. He planned well and he was always one step ahead of everyone. There were situations when you think he won't make it out alive but he still found ways to survive. I loved how he lured Myung Hee's hitmen into the lion's den to be killed eventually by or in the presence of their former boss. And how he lured Han Seok to jail. And how he managed to bring out all of the gold from the basement of Geumga. And how he smartly promised not to kill Han Seung Hyeok (Jo Han Chul of Juror 8 and The Producers), knowing that Han Seok would kill him anyway.

Although his comedy scenes were not as numerous as the other characters, I would have to say that Song Joong Ki was probably the funniest in the cast. I loved his deadpan delivery. I especially liked that scene where he pretended to be a mannequin when he was buying a suit. 

And I'm proud to say that Song Joong Ki has not yet lost his romantic touch. I was giddy everytime he showed bits of affection for his partner, Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin). Especially how he smoothly did that first kiss at the art gallery - he hesitated then he gently cupped her face. I also loved how he told her to dress the part if she was going to pretend to be his partner. 

Song Joong Ki was so good that he even pulled off that pretend bromance with Kim Sung Cheol (Prison Playbook and Hospital Playlist). 

And don't think that this show is all about Song Joong Ki beating up other people. I loved that there were also dramatic moments that highlighted what he can do as a dramatic actor. Like that restrained but very powerful pain he felt after the families of the Babel victims were killed. And Vincenzo's moments with his estranged mom. I super loved their photoshoot and the last walk they had together before the mom was killed. It was so tragic that after being apart for 30 years, the mother and son were reunited, only to be violently separated again when Babel killed Vincenzo's mom. Yes, she was collateral damage and while she was probably the most dispensable because of the limited moments they shared together, it was sad just the same. And it was very painful to see Vincenzo break down after his mom died and he got the scarf she knitted for him. 

And let me just say that Song Joong Ki on ice is a sight to behold!!! (Trivia: he used to be a short track speed skater who competed on the national level.) Vincenzo was so cool that everyone wanted to be associated with him and be his brother - the gangster turned travel agent Park Seok Do (Kim Young Woong), the fake Babel Chairman and Han Seok's half brother, Han Seo (Kwak Dong Yeon), undercover intelligence agent Mr. An (Lim Chul Soo of Crash Landing on You and Reply 1988), and pawnshop owner Lee Cheol Wook (Yang Kyung Won of CLOY) who even got him as his daughter's godfather. 

Over all, Song Joong Ki was impressive and so was Vincenzo (yes, even as a shaman). I loved how Vincenzo evolved from a cold and aloof outsider to a full-fledged member of the Geumga family who would even invite the Buddhist monks to have lunch with him. I really hope Song Joong Ki would continue to be active for a long, long time. 

Jeon Yeo Bin as Hong Cha Young


Jeon Yeo Bin is quite a newbie but that didn't stop her from matching whatever Song Joong Ki had to offer. Initially, I felt that her comedy had the tendency to be over the top. But despite that, I still found her funniest, next to Song Joong Ki. She was so hilarious when she impersonated Zumba dancing Myung Hee during one of their firm's get togethers. 

I loved how Yeo Bin was a very effective villain during the first few episodes when she was up against her father, Hong Yu Chan (Yoo Jae Myung of Reply 1988, Prison Playbook, and Strong Girl Bong Soon). This was quite a sad storyline though because the father and daughter were not able to fully resolve their issues before Babel killed Yu Chan. Vincenzo's relationship with Yu Chan was actually more like parent and child compared to the dad and Cha Young's. It's just too bad that this relationship was cut short abruptly. 

Yeo Bin also delivered really well during her confrontation scenes especially against Myung Hee. 

And I absolutely loved how Cha Young had that very good balance of toughness and gentleness. Especially that tenderness that was reserved for her moments with Vincenzo or when she worried about him. That scene where she sent off Vincenzo at the airport was very poignant. I loved how Cha Young stuck it out with Vincenzo and how she trusted him all the way. 

Oppa says that Yeo Bin exudes that Gianna Jun/Jun Ji Hyun (My Sassy Girl) vibe and I totally agree. Jeon Yeo Bin is so promising and I can't wait see more of her in the future.

Ok Taecyeon as Jang Han Seok


I've been neutral about Taecyeon. I didn't really like him in Wonderful Days but he sort of redeemed himself in Dream High. But when I saw him in the first few episodes of this show, I thought it was going to be another Wonderful Days experience for me. 

The goofy acting while he was pretending to be a law intern at Wusang was quite annoying for me. But when his real identity was revealed, then it all made sense. He was probably acting crazy to hide who he really was and to contrast it with his evilness. 

I appreciated Taecyeon more as a serious villain. Especially after he was jailed and he no longer had any inhibitions about his true self (like the way he bit the ear of one of the inmates!). His eyes and his entire demeanor just looked so scary. He was like the devil incarnate. 

For all the evil things he did, I was very satisfied with how Vincenzo killed Han Seok in the end. Although for a while there, I feared that the bird would gnaw on the ropes and help Han Seok escape. Fortunately, that didn't happen. 

Over all, this was definitely not a reprise of Wonderful Days. And while I probably still liked Taecyeon best in Dream High, I would have to say that he delivered here as well. 

Kwak Dong Yeon as Jang Han Seo

Right from the start, even if Han Seo was projected as a cruel chairman, I already felt that there was something weird/off with him. And as the show progressed, we find out that indeed, there's some craziness in him. 

For all the hardships he had to endure in Han Seok's shadow, I'm glad that Han Seo came to his senses and chose to be on the right side. I was so proud of how he transformed to a brave and intelligent guy who was definitely fit to be a CEO. 

It was funny but quite sad too whenever Han Seo worshipped Vincenzo. I felt his longing for family and I loved how Vincenzo took him under his wings and polished him. 

I knew I was going to be sad if he died. And while episode 19 gave me hope, it was heartbreaking to see him die in the first few minutes of the last episode. I loved how he sacrificed his life to save Vincenzo. And although he was probably sad to go, I'm sure he felt happy hearing Vincenzo say that he was worthy to be his brother. That was a very touching moment. 

This was our first Kwang Dong Yeon drama and I loved what I saw. He's definitely someone to watch out for. 

The Cassano Geumga Family 

I would have to admit that I was not initially fond of the Geumga tenants. I didn't feel the sincerity in them being a community. The organic feeling was definitely missing during the first few episodes. 

But as the show progressed, the Geumga gang slowly but surely grew on me. As they went through more experiences together, they became more like a real family to me. Cha Young was right, everyone was so talented and those theatrics proved to be really helpful - during the first hearing against Babel, hacking of the art gallery's records, etc. 

I loved that clothes maker scissor-wielding uncle Tak Hong Sik (Choi Duk Moon of The Snow Queen and Reply 1994). And the emotional law firm secretary Mr. Nam (Yoon Byung Hee of Hospital Playlist and who looked so different in Hot Stove League). And the Sadako-looking piano teacher who was actually a techie girl Seo Mi Ri (Kim Yoon Hye). And of course, Mr. An who was instrumental in getting help from the Intelligence Agency. Who would have thought that someone who looked meek and weak actually wielded so much power. It was really fitting that Vincenzo entrusted the Guillotine file to him and he was rewarded for that. 

And while I was not convinced of their sincerity in the beginning, I eventually appreciated how the show built up their relationships. It was not a thrown-in-your-face kind of tight knit group from the start. The drama realistically showed us how they worked on earning each other's trust. 

And when they finally learned to trust and truly care for each other, I loved how the Geumga gang fully embraced their roles in Vincenzo's life. I loved that they even bought those cool uniforms to make things more official. They all looked so sleek. 

I loved how they always watched out for Vincenzo like when they gave him a lot of gifts before he was supposed to leave for Italy. 

I liked how they stood up against the bullies like the goons who were asking them to leave and the guys who forced them to open the gold vault. 

I'm proud of how they were instrumental in helping Vincenzo catch Han Seok. And I'm glad that nobody died among them. 

So while it was not love at first sight for me and the Cassano Geumga family, I have really grown to love them and I will definitely miss following their colorful lives. 

The Baddies 


Kim Yeo Jin as Myung Hee was totally evil. There were moments when I felt that she was even worse than Han Seok. She was very effective as a despicable villain and totally different from her depressed character in Worlds Within. It was so fitting that she died in a very horrible manner with accompanying Zumba music in the background. 

Although Han Seung Hyeok was not as evil as Han Seok and Myung Hee (he was actually a coward), I also believe that there is a special place in hell for fence sitters/turncoats like him. In the end, he got what he deserved with the totally shocking and unexpected way he was stabbed on the steps of the Prosecution Office.

Things That Worked

The pilot episode captured my attention right away with the badass way that Vincenzo burnt that huge vineyard. And that sustained my interest all throughout the 20 hour-and-a-half long episodes. I'm not sure if it captured Oppa's interest in the same way. Knowing how he worships The Godfather series, I'm pretty sure his standards are higher than mine. He might not have been thoroughly impressed with this one given how often he dozed off. 

My interest grew even more after it was revealed that the goofy law intern was actually Han Seok, the real boss of Babel. 

I liked how the plot lines were mostly solid. Vincenzo always had a high sense of awareness like when he knew in episode 8 that someone broke in to Cha Young's house.

And I loved how the show didn't really spoon feed its viewers. We're made to read between the lines in a logical way such that you can still follow the story even if it does not spell out everything for you. For instance in that episode 8 break in to Cha Young's house, Vincenzo predicted that it was a one-man operation because it was done sloppily. And while this was not explicitly confirmed, we see in a subsequent scene that Han Seo confessed something to Han Seok that angered the latter, signifying that Han Seo ordered the break in. 

I liked the hanging endings that leave you guessing about what's going to happen next. Like when Han Seo shot Vincenzo then it was revealed in the next episode that everything was actually planned. Or when Han Seok shot Cha Young and we all thought Han Seo was safe, only to be killed in the first few minutes of the subsequent episode. My favorite would probably be the ending in episode 10 where Vincenzo told Cha Young that he already knew who the real boss of Babel was. They both looked at Han Seok as if implying that they knew it was him. 

I also liked how the show walked us through how Vincenzo and Cha Young finally found out that Han Seok was the real boss. We get a peek on how they operate but it was presented in a way that was not dragging or boring. For instance, we saw how Vincenzo kept Myung Hee's hitmen so he'll have someone to clean up after him (like the bodies of the tunnel and the Mafia assassins) and to kill them eventually when they were no longer useful. 

Although his role was quite minimal, I also liked the twists brought by Mr. Cho's (Choi Young Joon of Hospital Playlist) character. I always felt that there was something off with him, that he could not be trusted. And true enough, he tried to betray Vincenzo in that episode where they opened the gold vault. Fortunately, he never really moved to the bad side. I guess he had no choice but to stick with Vincenzo because he saved his life numerous times. 

 

I loved the crazy things Vincenzo did to annoy Han Seok. My most favorite would have to be the episode where he humiliated Han Seok by spilling pig's blood on him while he was speaking in front of youth leaders. 

The best thing about the show was probably how it took swipes at corrupt government officials. I loved the absurdity of the high ranking officials bidding for levels in the Babel Tower to be paid in kind and the leaders eating their contracts with Babel out of fear that they will all be killed. Absurd, yes, but totally realistic given how most leaders are willing to do the absurd in order to feed their greed. 

Things that were Not so Okay

My initial complaint about the show was how the comedy felt a bit contrived and over the top. I get that it was probably done to balance the seriousness and heaviness of the other issues. But some scenes were just too theatrical for my taste, like the fake Italian chef (Kim Hyung Mook). Even Yang Kyung Won who was funny in CLOY seemed quite theatrical here. And I didn't appreciate the courtroom comedy either. But I would have to admit that the "corn-saladi," "pepper company," and the Parasite impersonator (Yang Seung Won) were really funny. 

We noticed some loopholes too. Like how the Babel researcher who was a friend of the Buddhist monk was still confined in the hospital that had ties with Babel even if they already knew that that hospital was notorious for faking diagnoses and treatments. 

I also could not understand why they always had to use the same police station and prosecution office. I get that each office has its own jurisdiction. But when it's so obvious that one branch is so tainted, I'm pretty sure they have good ground to have their cases moved to another more impartial branch. Or they can even go all the way up to the Supreme Court. 

And what happened to the Geumga demolition? The last set of goons threatened everyone to leave in two days. But they never came back after that. Were they scared of Mr. Tak's scissors? It just didn't make sense that it was a very big issue at the start but then Babel just decided to drop it afterwards? 

I was also curious how Han Seo and Vincenzo managed to meet in public a lot of times without Han Seok finding out about it. Quite surprising for someone as paranoid as Han Seok who even installed a tracker on Han Seo's watch. And when that tracker was surreptitiously transferred by Han Seo to his brother's watch, didn't Han Seok wonder why it always tracked his location even if Han Seo was not with him? 

The Finale

I was quite worried that I would have a serious case of separation anxiety with this show, similar to what I experienced with CLOY. Fortunately, it's not that bad, thanks to how the ending somehow tempered my feelings towards this show. 

Going into the 20th episode, my concern was actually how everyone was still alive. Will Vincenzo do a mass killing to get rid of everyone? I was worried about the pacing. But things did work out with all the bad guys killed during the first hour of the finale. 

One of my problems with the finale was how uncharacteristic it was for Vincenzo to be spaced out in an emergency situation. I was shocked to see him not in control when he rescued Cha Young, even after Han Seo already helped him by distracting/hitting Han Seok. At the end of episode 19, I was still hopeful that he was probably just shaken because the woman he loved was in danger but that he'll eventually snap out of it. But as the confrontation scene progressed in episode 20, my hopes were shattered. Gone was the alert, sharp, on his toes, and always ahead of everyone Vincenzo. It took him such a long time to regain his focus. I even sort of resented that he didn't do much to help Han Seo. Han Seo might have survived if Vincenzo acted quickly, like the real Vincenzo. 

My other problem was how Han Seok was eliminated. Yes, that spear of atonement was totally brilliant and ruthless. But I expected more action between Han Seok and Vincenzo. The show did quite a good job in building up their rivalry and I felt that the way it ended didn't live up to that. I felt that it was too easy for Vincenzo to capture Han Seok. The finale just didn't match how bad ass the previous episodes were. An hour into the show and everything seemed to have been resolved already. 

And the over the top comedy was back. Yes, I get that everyone was relaxed again now that the bad guys are gone. But I felt that the show could have done away with it to further reinforce that their relationships have grown and matured. 

I was also left wondering about the gold. I was hoping the other Geumga tenants were also given their share, no matter how small. They deserved it. After all, they were all instrumental in resolving everything. And how did they transport the gold from Cha Young's house to wherever? 

I was happy that Cha Young had the chance to see (and kiss!!!) Vincenzo again after a year. But it would have been nicer if Vincenzo also had the chance to see the Cassano family Geumga chapter. 

Over all, I still loved the show because it managed to give me a compelling story (and Song Joong Ki and Jeon Yeo Bin). And I liked how the ending realistically acknowledged that Vincenzo can't be expected to totally give up his old ways. But it didn't glamorize the stuff he did either. It was good enough for me that after seeing and fighting alongside the oppressed, Vincenzo now has a better understanding of how things work and how he should pick his battles. 

Oppa says...4.0.

Noona says...4.5 (probably lower if it were not for Song Joong Ki). 


2 comments:

  1. Hi I'm new to Vincenzo, I'm still at ep.1 here are my thoughts. I was excited because he's so badass in the beginning but after what happened when he got robbed. I was kinda disappointed. Pls tell if there is gonna be badass moments for him?

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Yes, the badass moments will increase and get better. Enjoy! :)

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