Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Life Again (KBS Korea 2005)

As my first attempt at reviewing a drama series for the site, Life Again (aka: Resurrection) could've been a whole lot worse. It's nowhere near perfect (and what really is), but it definitely gets points for trying to break conventional molds that are all too common in Asian series'.

After being dropped off by a mysterious stranger to live with a family he doesn't even know, Suh Ha-Eun (Uhm Tae Woong) is now a grown man working as a detective for the police force. His new family consists of his "father" Suh Jae-su (Kang Shin Il) and "sister" Suh Eun-ha (Han Ji Min). Living with Eun-ha his entire life, Ha-Eun has always cared deeply for his "sister", in a way that steps outside the boundaries of loving a family member. Ironically enough, Eun-ha feels the same way about him, and they both realize that they've been repressing their love for so long that now it's time to be open about it and admit how they feel. These two are meant to be together. After being assigned to a murder case, Ha-Eun notices that the victim was wearing the same ring that he remembered seeing as child. As the memories come rushing back to him, he starts to think that this man has something to do with the death of his father, Yoo Gun-ha (Ahn Nae Sang), who was ran off the road with a young Ha-Eun in the vehicle. Ha-Eun also remembers that he had a twin brother when he was younger, and after he was placed with Jae-su and Eun-ha, he lost contact with him because of the trauma he endured during the car crash that took his father's life. Ha-Eun gets information from his new boss Kyung Gi-do (Lee Dae Yeon) that his brother is still alive, but before he can give Ha-Eun this information, trouble steps in to make sure the truth isn't known.

Unbeknown to Ha-Eun, his twin brother Yu Shin-hyuk (also played by Uhm Tae Woong) has been living and working in the same city as him as the vice president to Mureung Construction company under his step-father Kang In-cheol (Lee Jung Gil). Shin-hyuk lives at home with In-cheol and his mother Kim Yi-hwa (Sun Woo Eun Sook), also Ha-Eun's real mother, and his sister Kang Shin-young (Lee Yeon Hee), whom Ha-Eun doesn't even know about. Ha-Eun finds out that his brother is still alive and he needs to meet with him in order to continue his investigation as to whom this murdered man was and what his connection was to their fathers death. After a cruel reuniting of the two brothers, Ha-Eun finds out that his real name is Yu Gang-hyuk and is forced into impersonating his brother in order to find out the truth of their father's murder. It seems that those responsible for this crime are going to be a lot harder to get to than just your average joe and there are a lot more people involved then Gang-hyuk could've ever imagined. Fueled by rage, Gang-hyuk decides to take matters into his own hands in order to get revenge on those responsible so that they feel the same pain that he's felt his entire life. However, pretending you're somebody else and forgetting everyone you used to know in your life isn't easy and Gang-hyuk has to decide if all the pain and deceit will be worth it.

First off, I have to tell you that I really summarized the gist of the show as much as possible because it spans across twenty-four episodes! In all honesty, Life Again could've told it's tale in sixteen episodes max, and that makes it one of my bigger gripes about this drama. Aside from the length of the series, while it does change up the usual Korean drama formula quite a bit, it stills retains too much of the predictable melodrama that you know and loathe. One of the biggest offenders is the, "show you a flashback of a scene that just happened two seconds ago" elements that seem to occur way too often. Now that we have my major irks out of the way, I will say that the series' lead, Uhm Tae Woong, did an excellent job in displaying a wide range of emotions, as well as portraying two different characters. Han Ji Min playing the "sister"/love interest is cute enough to look at, but she spends the entire series making sad faces and crying constantly. A shame really. Life Again has an extensive supporting cast with talent ranging from good to laughable at best. So Yi Hyun as the incredibly nosey and sometimes annoying reporter Lee Gang-ju does just fine, as does Ha-Eun/Yu Gang-hyuk's co-worker and best friend Kim Su-cheol (Go Myung Hwan). Lee Gang-ju's father Lee Tae-jun (Kim Gap Soo) is really quite good as one the antagonists of the series, but sadly the same can't be said for his cohort Jung Sang-gook (Ki-joo Bong). The worst "actor", and I use that term loosely, of the entire series would have to be Kim Kyu Chul as Tae-jun and Sang-gook's henchman Choi Dong-chan. This guy is so over-the-top with his acting that you don't know if you should take him seriously or just laugh at everything he does. Definitely a misstep in the casting process. Story-wise, I had initially read that Life Again was supposed to focus more on the drama of the darker story than the romance angle which is almost always the focal point of a Korean drama. This, as you can imagine, grabbed my interest. I can't remember where I read this, and I wish I could because I'd like to go back and call them all liars. The uber-dramatic scenes between Ha-eun and Eun-ha happen way more often than I would have liked, and the love triangle between Ha-eun, Eun-ha and Jung Sang-gook's son Jung Jin-woo (Ko Joo Won) were unnecessary and even a little annoying. I did enjoy the fact that Ha-eun/Yu Gang-hyuk really followed through with a lot of the revenge that he set out to do. I initially had an anxious feeling in my gut thinking that the show wouldn't be "hardcore" enough to have him really go through with some of it.

A step in the right direction for Korean dramas, Life Again shows a lot of promise in what could a new sub-genre of Korean series'. I respect those responsible for thinking outside of the "norm", but it'll probably be awhile before shows like this, with a darker story and edge, become mainstays within the culture. Rest assured, I'll be ready and waiting to review them. (Lee)

*Life Again is temporarily out of stock at YESASIA

The Official Life Again Website *In Korean

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