In writer/director Lee Jeong-Beom’s “The Man From Nowhere,” that’s a dilapidated apartment building of misery, where Tae-shik (Won Bin, “Mother”) glares from under his unkempt hair and generally keeps to himself. Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not what he’s going to do.
Then he meets So-mi (Kim Sae-Ron), the cute little waif next door. Her mom’s a junk-injecting pile of misery, so So-mi is eager to form a friendship. Left to her own devices, she gets into mischief, like shoplifting. Tae-shik becomes her reluctant caretaker when Mom gets tortured by bad guys who don’t cotton to her little smuggling ring.
Unbeknownst to Tae-shik — he’s as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see — the mother has gotten him involved by hiding her drugs in his camera bag. When she and So-mi are kidnapped, he has no other option but to revive the bad-ass mode of his past, that of an Army Special Forces officer who specialized in secret missions like assassinations and whatnot. You know he’s serious about revenge because he gets himself cleaned up.
That leads to slick action sequences, like a knife fight on an exceptionally clean club bathroom floor to an encounter with a guy who calls himself 500, because that’s the body count he aims to reach. Hey, it’s good to have a goal. Nowhere man, the world is at your command!
If you smell a whiff of Luc Besson’s “The Professional,” congratulate yourself, Sherlock, for “The Man from Nowhere” indeed resembles that 1994 cult classic. Or at least initially, before broadening its scope a bit. A huge hit it its native Korea, “Nowhere” exhibits a slickness common of most modern-day Asian thrillers, but not quite the lungs to power through all of its two-hour running time. Still, approximately 75 percent ain’t bad. —Rod Lott, with apologies to Lennon/McCartney