Saturday, May 3, 2014

K-drama review: Three Days

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16 episodes
My rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Park Yoochun as Han Tae Kyung
Park Ha Sun as Yoon Bo Won
Son Hyun Joo as Lee Dong Hwi
So Yi Hyun as Lee Cha Young

Plot Summary

Han Tae Kyung is a presidential bodyguard whose father, the country’s Minister of Finance, has just passed away after a car accident.  Tae Kyung is told that his father fell asleep at the wheel, and doesn’t know the truth – that his father was desperately trying to reach President Lee Dong Hwi by phone, when a large truck deliberately ran him off the road, on an isolated stretch where there were no traffic cameras.  Thankfully, the first person to arrive at the scene after the accident is a conscientious young police officer, Yoon Bo Won.  She finds the whole thing suspicious and investigates in spite of being ordered by superiors to drop it.

When he arrives home after his father’s funeral, Tae Kyung’s house has been broken into and he learns that whoever it was is looking for a document called “Confidential 98” that was in his father’s possession at the time of the accident, but disappeared immediately after.  Following clues leads Tae Kyung to a man who has been stabbed who tells him with his last breath that the president will be killed the next day.  Tae Kyung does his best to prevent the assassination but winds up being framed for it instead.

And then things really get bad.

What I liked about it

Throughout the show, Tae Kyung has to deal with issues of trust and loyalty.  What do you do when you have conflicting loyalties?  How do you decide how far your duty goes?  What if someone you have every reason to trust begins acting very suspiciously?  Do you keep on trusting him?  How far do you trust people and on what basis?

Yoochun is growing as an actor and I enjoy watching his work -- he's good at conveying his character's thoughts and feelings in subtle ways, and this character was a really reserved guy.  It was kind of a relief after watching the weeping and wailing of his previous drama, Missing You, which I loved, and the shouting and goofiness of his earlier rom-com, Rooftop Prince, which I also loved.  He worked a lot on his martial arts skills to prepare for the role and it shows – and I do love a good fight scene.

The story was many-layered – intrigue, conspiracy, suspicion, betrayal, disillusionment.  As Bo Won helps Tae Kyung try to clear his name and investigate his father's death, they discover that both circumstances are related to a recent house fire that killed four people, and even to an incident that occurred sixteen years earlier in which rogue North Korean troops attacked a South Korean village, resulting in dozens of deaths.  And that's just the stuff you find out in the first two episodes.

What I didn’t like about it

The incessant flashbacks were such a nuisance.  They were effective when used to give us insight into the characters and their relationships, but too often this wasn’t the case. We would be shown something happening in a way that seemed designed to build tension – the Good Guys appearing to walk into a trap, or about to be cornered – but then it would turn out to be a grand sleight of hand wherein the Good Guys evaded the Bad Guys, and then we’d be treated to a flashback in order to reveal the clever thing that had actually happened.  Only most of the time we had already figured out what was going on so the “reveal” was unnecessary and even a little embarrassing.  These frequent, unneeded flashbacks interrupted the action, slowed the pace, and were generally counter-productive -- they became so annoying that it was hard to stay focused on the action.

The "three days" motif was irrelevant.  At first it seemed that the entire show would take place over the course of three days, but then it became apparent that the time frame was three sets of three days. But even then, the date/time stamp that flashed on the screen periodically was more a distraction than anything and added no sense of urgency to the plot.

The villain owed most of his success not to his superior resources (and believe me, they were superior) but to the ridiculous incompetence of the good guys, which is generally a sign of lousy writing.

While the music was good sometimes, more often it got cheesy, smarmy, and/or emotionally manipulative.

Almost half of the last episode was devoted to flashbacks of the central characters and their relationships with each other.  In two cases, I can only see it as fan service -- the longest flashback was made up entirely of scenes between our Hero and the Girl He Ends Up With, which played like a music video, and then followed another set of scenes with him and the Girl He Does Not End Up With.

Favorite scene

That moment after HOURS of show, after working on the case together for days, constantly in each other’s company, when Tae Kyung finally notices that not only is his cop-buddy a girl, but a very pretty one.  The change in his countenance was priceless.

Should you watch it?

Honestly, unless you are especially interested in political intrigue dramas or want to see any of the actors in this show, I wouldn't recommend it.  The story was interesting enough and I cared about the characters enough to watch it all the way to the end, but by the last episode we were mocking the show almost non-stop, and Mike quit watching it as soon as the major action ended.  The only thing left was to find out whether a certain character had actually died in an earlier scene, and that info didn't even affect the story's outcome.

Also, you have to be able to overlook the kind of errors that inevitably come up in a show that involves police or medical issues or technology.

This trailer gives you a good idea of the tone and style the director was aiming for.  Too bad he didn't achieve it more consistently.

Update 28 May 2014
DramaFever took down the teaser I had linked to before. Here is the same teaser, but sadly, it's without English subs.

[I'm leaving the old trailer here in case DF brings it back.)

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