Text review of Innocent Man/Nice Guy (the first 10 episodes)

Hello, This is a Korean In America. Today, I would like to talk about a new Korean drama. In Korean, the show is called “차칸남자“ .  It has been translated as either “Innocent man” or “Nice guy” in English. This is a decent translation. But I do feel that some cultural nuances are lost.
There is a rather funny story to this title that could only be really appreciated if you are a Korean. The producers of the show intentionally miss spelled the title in Korean. It had the same pronunciation but used an unorthodox spelling.  A similar case would be the Brad Pitt movie “Kalifornia” which used a “K” instead of a “C”.
차칸남자(Unrthodox spelling)  ->   착한 남자  (Correct spelling)
Well, there was uproar about the whole thing. The producers ended up changing the spelling midway. It’s one of the things that only happens in Korean. You need to live there to see the absurdity of the whole situation.
Leaving aside the whole title controversy, the show itself is receiving very mixed reviews. The audience seems to be polarized with not many in middle of the spectrum of opinions. You either get it/ like it or you don’t.
I personally like it. It is my favorite new show of the fall season.  And I am rather embarrassed to say this because I see why people have problems with show. 
It is a very guilty pleasure for me.  
This show has elements of a traditional Korean revenge melodrama.
It has romance triangle, it has second generation “chaebol “ or mogul.
It does not have memory loss or terminal illness story elements up to episode 8 but may have in the future.
However this show is anything but a typical representation of its genre. There lies the cause of the polarization.

First, the plot:
 up to this point, I can strip the plot down to its core.
There is a poor guy.
There is a poor girl.
The poor couple once together. The girl said that “He was my home”
One day the poor girl kills someone and poor guy goes to jail for her.
Jump 6 years.
There is a Rich girl. Her father is going to remarry the poor girl.
The poor guy is out of Prison. He is not happy with the poor girl for leaving.
The Rich girl is not happy that her father is remarrying.
The poor guy and Rich girl meet.
And the Rich girl falls in love; the poor guy…..? Revenge?….Love…?

This is a stripped down summary of the plot up episode 8. However, it is not much far from the actual plot. The show has a minimalistic style which is the basis for a lot of the complaints the show has been receiving.
  • Plot:
The plot does not really wonder beyond the character triangle. For example, the Poor guy either interacts with either girl or is alone. It is the same for the other two characters. There are other characters but their existences      not significant. You don’t get to know them.  
In addition, there is no real objective or McGuffin in the show that drives the plot. Although there is a revenge element to the story, it never comes to the forefront.  So, the show lacks the ability to attract audiences by its sophisticated plot.
As a stylistic choice, this is not necessarily a negative. However, the plot depends heavily on the 3 main characters and their interactions to progress the plot.
  • Dialog:
In this situation, great and witty dialog between characters tends to help. This show does not do this.  The minimalistic style is also expressed by refraining to use dialog.  This is quite noticeable compared to the normal amount of dialog seen in most dramas. It makes you wonder if most of the script is stage direction.
Look at the camera! Express sadness…..
One noticeable aspect of the dialog is the one liner. Of the existing dialog, most are rather flat. However, the script does include some impactful one-liners.
  • Scenes:
Most of the show’s scenes of fall into two categories.
  1. A solo scene in which the actor emotes alone.
   2. An interaction scene which are usually one on one.
The common characteristic between the two categories is that all strongly express a single emotion. So, the show feels like a slide show of emoting sequences.  This has two effects:
First, it makes the show feel somewhat chopping going from one emotion to another.
Second, it keeps the emotional levels intense because of the lack transitional or functional scenes.
Overall, the show and its story feel insular as if it is wrapped in a cocoon. You have no real sense of the show’s world. The show creates a detachment from our world but does not create a new world. You just have the characters and their emotions.  
  • Characters:
The three main characters of this show are interesting. You can see that there was an effort to try to make them not one dimensional. The problem is that, even though you have complex characters, the show has a difficulty expressing it. The minimalistic style restricts the amount of room available to express the characters.
It is as if you are trying to show a 3 dimensional character through mime. You can do it but it is really difficult!!!

By 8 of a 20 episodes show, you are entering the second act. You should know the characters and their motivations if hiding them are not a plot device.
This show is not a mystery!!!

The result is that you are never sure of the characters’ motivation.
This does not help the plot problem since it also weakens the antagonist.  In the show, the poor girls act as the antagonist.
She is the objective of the protagonist’s revenge. So, getting to know her is important plot device. The show treats her as being the most complex character it has. This is shown in the form of the many conflicting action by her.  
However, by watching the show, you don’t get her and her actions.
I personally sometimes think she is bipolar. But I think it is unintentional on the part of the show

The result is that it is never clear what this show is and where it will go.
So, why do I like this show? It is the combination of the visual direction, minimalistic style and the chemistry between the actors.
  • Visual direction:
Each scene of the show is beautifully filmed as if they were still shots.  The primary focus is on making the characters look beautiful by saturating them with light and giving them that glossy look that you can see in cosmetic or perfume print ads.
This Visual direction goes well with the minimalistic style of the show. With some nice mood music, it covers up the emptiness behind the raw emotion being expressed by the actors.
  • Actors:
Among the three main charecters,
  1. The poor girl is played by Bak Shi Yeon who has the most experience among the three.
 I really like the actress since I first saw “Coffee House”.  In that show she displayed a wide range of emotions. She does the same in this show with a role that is very demanding and requires shifting between emotions. She can hit specific emotional heights in her performances.
But the problem is that she has difficulty is subtly transitioning between emotions. This is more because of the constraints given to her rather than a lack of ability.
In any case, her character is the weakest of the three.
   2.  The poor guy is played by Song Jung Ki who is the least experienced.
This is his first leading role in a drama and you can see it in his performances.
  • His role requires him to took a certain way rather than show his acting skills.
  •  His role has the least amount of dialog.
  • He only is required to shift between two modes: an emotionally vague pretty mode and angry revenge mode. He can do the former but not really the latter.
But he can do PRETTY VERY WELL. He is in that stage when he still has that boyish look but can also present himself as a mature man. It is embarrassing but I admit that the combination is VERY intriguing.
   3.   The rich girl is played by Mun Chae Won
This actress is also more experienced with roles that require looks than acting skills. She has a beauty that is calm and lovely but also has subtle edge to it. She has perfected the ability to show that look on screen when not being expected to lift too much in the acting department.
In this show, initially she had problems with the character as the role had aspects that were not in her comfort zone.
The role starts out as an aggressive tomboy struggling to be act as a business woman.
  • She could not pull it off aggressive! Her version of aggressive is to try to push her already large eyes out of her sockets by starring.
  •  She has a strange way of pronouncing dialog that makes delivering a large chunk of dialog choppy. This worsens when she is in aggressive mode.  
Once the rich girl meets up with poor guy and falls in love in about a day, the role transitions into a loveable girl with an edge which is more her ball park.
The two beautiful actor and actress have an intoxicating chemistry!!!
Objectively, this show is not the best drama around.
  • The script is barely serviceable.
  • The plot in vague and moves slowly.
  • The minimalistic style is not for everyone.
However, I love the show because of the actors’ chemistry, the gorgeous visual direction, and the uncertainty resulting from the minimalistic approach to providing the audience with plot and character information.  It is a unique show that separates itself from the typical shows of the Korean revenge melodrama genre.
The show has been scheduled for a 20 episode run.  As of the first week of October, 2012, 8 episodes have aired. You can catch the show in the US through streaming websites such as
  • Gooddrama.net
  • Crazydrama.net
  • Dramafever.net


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