Netflix’s new Korean action drama is sure to grow in popularity with everybody’s favorite heartthrob, Woo Do-Hwan, being present among the show’s massive cast. It’s already apparent that action-packed revenge dramas are a big hit in the Hallyu industry, as we saw with the other mini-series, My Name, starring Han So-Hee. Unsurprisingly, the series is based on a webtoon by the same name that takes us back to the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, where two rookie boxers befriend each other and get tangled up in a mighty battle with arguably Korea’s most notorious loan shark company. The bromance is impeccable, of course, and the rookie boxers who are pitted against each other in the rink become brothers outside it. It’s an interesting duo of misfits who have no similarities except that they’ve both returned from serving as Marines in the Army— A fact that we get reminded of often because of Woo-Jin’s (played by Lee Sang-Yi) army pride. It is not a complicated story to follow, which makes it extremely binge-able and fun!
Unlike what I expected as someone who hadn’t even read a thing about the show or seen a trailer, the action takes place mostly on the streets of Seoul rather than inside the boxing arena. Of course, our protagonist comes from a poor family with a poignant past, leading him to be the nicest kid on the block, whereas his pal has a more free-spirited outlook on life that is less calculated and more joyful, but somehow they’re like two peas in a pod. The real deal begins when Gun-Woo’s (Woo Do-Hwan) mother ends up taking a loan from a company titled “Smile Capital” that has been scamming small businesses. Gun-Woo’s mother ends up being scammed, and that’s when he starts his long fight with the leader, Kim Myeong-Gil. With the help of Woo-Jin, along the way, they meet Mr. Choi, a rich and nice loan shark who has left the business and now helps the poor with money so they can get medical treatments. Mr. Choi gives Gun-Woo, and Woo-Jin a job, and the rest follows. Veteran actor Heo Jun-Ho plays President Choi and is immediately captivating and endearing, making him a grandfather figure for both boys. Along with him comes his adoptive granddaughter, Hyeon-Ju, who is also extremely entertaining and just as skilled as the boys when it comes to fighting off the bad guys.
If you’re interested in a meatier story, Bloodhounds may not do the trick for you. It’s as simple as they come, and that’s what makes it such a breeze to watch. It’s also extremely funny, making you clutch your stomach laughing and the very next moment retching because of the violence. The cinematography and background score are perfect for the show, but what makes it really outstanding are the long, brilliantly choreographed fight scenes that surprisingly keep you glued to the screen rather than turning away in boredom. Recently, we’ve had a couple of movies and shows that seem overlong because of their unnecessarily extended action sequences, Kill Boksoon being a big example of this for me. But, with a show like Bloodhounds, the emotions take a step back, and the grit is all that matters. What does it for this show is the fact that it’s not trying to be many things at once. Park Sung-Woong and Tae Won-Seock are perfectly despicable as the bad guys, and there’s no doubt that you will want to put a knife through Myeong-Gil’s stone heart yourself about 3.5 episodes in. The knife scenes are especially fascinating, and it’s great to actually see the knives rather than have them blurred out, as they’re usually censored in Korean shows. The good characters are all extremely rooted, making it hard not to be on their side even if they’re in the show for about two episodes. The pacing is just right, and it never feels like there’s nothing going on for such a simple story.
Personally, the highlight of the show has to be Lee Sang-Yi’s Woo-Jin, who is a mood maker in the show. The actor, who has always been sidelined as a supporting character or the second lead, really shines through in all his roles, but specifically as an innocent, dedicated, and joyful boxer with an ecstatic taste in style. Of course, we can’t ignore the physical transformation, which would’ve been a lot of work for the actor, who usually plays more romantic characters. He does at times outshine his partner in crime, Woo Do-Hwan, but the latter oozes a kind of adorable naivety that will have his fans and non-fans alike swoon and cry, “oh so cute!” even in the middle of serious subject matter. Super Junior’s Si-Won plays a “Chaebol,” or conglomerate heir of the series; commonly, he would be considered the bad guy, but this show turns the tables and allows him to show his more vulnerable side, which was great to watch.
There’s no denying that some of the action sequences where it’s two of the good guys against. a hundred of the bad ones don’t really make sense, but they’re still highly engaging, and at the end of the day we want the good guys to win no matter what, so even if that may be a flaw, we never feel like Gun-Woo and Woo-Jin are robots or superheroes, they just feel like boxing champions. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of that side of things, and if there were to be another season, it would ideally focus on how they moved on from the life of bloodhounds to that of reigning champions. Cuss words are a must in such a show, but it refreshingly stays clear of sexual content, making it a suitable family-friendly show (of course, I don’t mean kids). If you’re one to squirm at the sight of blood, though, skip this one for sure. Amidst all the Pandemic content we’ve received to date, this one might be the most light-hearted and easy-going of them all. If not for anything else, the show is a fun watch for Woo Do-Hwan and Lee Sang-Yi fans, as they are the duo you vouch for till the end. Let me help you make this your weekend binge-watch by giving it three and a half stars out of 5.