Cruel CityK-drama

Cruel City ~ Review


“The world is like a mirror.
If you curse and spit at it, the world will curse and spit back at you.
If you smile, i am sure the world will follow and smile back at you too.
So don’t be serious and just smile,
You’re pretty when you smile.”


It was an unorthodox watching process since i first watched My Beautiful Bride and then marched backwards to witness the gloomy grandeur of Cruel City from the same screenwriter, Yoo Sung Yeol. I was already a fan of his work, but now i can wholeheartedly say that i will blindly follow him in his next attempt whether it’s going to be another noir drama or not, but i will be more than pleased if it’s going to be an OCN or jTBC production.

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While going through Yoo Sung Yeol‘s dramas, except for the film noir aesthetic, he definitely loves 4th episodes, aquariums, Shim Min, combative female characters and pain, tremendous amounts of pain adorned with a fragile pounding core no matter how raw the contours may appear. He was accompanied by Lee Jung Hyo, the director of Witch’s Romance and I Need Romance 2, and their collaboration in Cruel City definitely shone in thick darkness through shards of eloquent light.

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Jung Shi Hyun (Jung Kyung Ho) is one of the most promising rising forces in South Korea’s mobster universe and he’s known as Doctor’s Son. After running away from the orphanage he was raised by Moon Deok Bae or Safari (Choi Moo Sung) and Lee Jin Sook (Kim Yu Mi). He started learning the underworld’s drug “business” from an young age and having Kim Hyun Soo (Yoon Hyun Min) as a partner in crime he intends to reach the top of the hierarchy at the present.

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The police force intends to dwell deeper into the underworld’s lair and a special unit is being forged under the command of director Min Hong Ki (Son Chang Min). The unit’s leader will be Ji Hyung Min (Lee Jae Yoon) who’s got his girlfriend and fellow police officer by his side, Lee Kyung Mi (Go Na Eun) who supports Han Soo Min (Nam Gyu Ri) who’s like a little sister to her. The violent journey that will lead them to Doctor’s Son begins and an unstable world full of uncertainty and bleakness starts unveiling itself.

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Cruel City masterfully visualizes the art of wearing masks, not only to hide one’s identity but also as an attempt to enchain one’s feelings underneath the surface. It’s not only because one’s internal world may appear as a weakness that could be fatal in the near or far future, it’s also about keeping  your loved ones safe from harm even though you may end up being devoured by all this sentimental burden and the dangers awaiting in the corner.

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Cruel City reflects a world of intertwined relationships through an ever-growing irony of fate. The more the episodes pass by the more these perplexed interactions keep developing through a wide variety of levels which implement intense and conflicting emotions. That’s when the bonds that have already been forged under turbulent circumstances are being tested in times when trust and sincerity could get shattered overnight by the lurking background.

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One of the most renowned drama tropes is always related to the past and the way it brings together or pushes away many of our figures at the present while the future drowns in uncertainty. It’s one of the main cores of the drama and it is being masterfully infused in hearts pounding with revenge, regret, distress, caring and/or ambition under a shape-shifting darkening horizon.

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Loyalty is an excuse and the fact that it’s selective is the epitome of corruption, it’s a stench which overruns Cruel City’s veins. Wealth and power, but most and above all survival instinct, often appear grandiose over loyalty and trust, but there’s also friendship and bonds thicker than blood. No matter how ill-fated they may appear they are sincere and selfless to a sacrificial extent proving that life can still blossom even in this ravenous mire.


There’s an intriguing police force presentation, but if corruption is the middle name of the underworld then it’s the shadow on the wall when it comes to people who were supposed to preserve the law. The real burden falls upon those who chose to work under the radar while diving more and more in these murky waters. It isn’t easy maintaining your integrity, but what’s even more difficult is to differentiate between duty which automates what’s right or wrong and your humane side in the way it’s being affected by the flow of events.


The cinematography is literally glimmering in the darkness as the vivid colors recede in the thick gloom through the dim lighting or faded shades of gold while altogether evoke a warm yet raw ambiance which is utterly representative of the figures’ characteristics and everything going on. The use of closeups reflects the characters’ void or feelings and the body positioning and the distance between a wide variety of figures is always representative of the circumstances in this devoid of rules and regulations chessboard. The fight choreography is violent poetry in motion, especially when the suit jacket does the talking except for old school beating up, jackknifes, crowbars and acrobatics!

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Everything the characters preserve, both internally and on the surface, gets intensified by the exceptional soundtrack. The trip hop injections, the rocking maneuvers and the symphonic passages paint Cruel City’s sound pallet with various shades of menacing or eloquent timbres. And then comes “The Man,” this instru-mental composition and its flamenco-oriented acoustic chords have scarred me for life, it’s the sound equivalent of something fragile shattering to pieces just like the drama itself.

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Despite its slight plot holes and a few odd yet kind of hilarious presentations, the storyline was intriguing to say the least and most and above all captivating. It was in fact a massive plot twist device where anything could happen anytime and you couldn’t be certain about anything until the curtains would start falling one after the other. It’s also adorned with reminiscence, ongoing action, a myriad of feelings, a bromance beyond the realms of life and death and an insatiable passion blooming amid cracks. Just like the storyline indicates, the characters are being filtered through a chameleon prism of deceiving layers and the acting flows accordingly through exceptional performances and distinctive presentations.

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Jung Kyung Ho was simply astonishing while pouring heart and soul into Jung Shi Hyun’s multifaceted character. Delivering pain in an aristocratic way and hurting with style, Jung Kyung Ho was truly a king in his domain. Caring and selfless, passionate or menacing, restrained or explosive, concerned or straight forward, he was all over the place in his very own elegant way dominating the screen by all means necessary.


Nam Gyu Ri was ravishing and the more her character was developing the more her acting was revealing its real nature as it was reaching higher peaks with every passing episode. Stunning and captivating with her presence, but also heartfelt and determined through her interpretation she was a humble miracle before my very eyes and her chemistry with Jung Kyung Ho was mesmerizing.

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Lee Jae Yoon fervently performed Ji Hyung Min’s thick yet cracked, but also strong-willed yet stubborn character. Hyung Min is one of these figures that definitely don’t know how to treat a woman, but he was focused on duty and the reasons which were fueling his relentless spirit. Kim Yu Mi was a sharp diamond of a character as Lee Jin Sook, untouchable, classy and beauteous at the same despite her own turbulent lakes within.

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Yoon Hyun Min was simply great in Discovery of Romance and Witch’s Romance and as Hyun Soo in Cruel City he earned my trust effortlessly for one more time. I don’t think he will ever disappoint me and he was vibrant through Hyun Soo’s upbeat, stylish and emotional in his own way character. Song Chan Min whom i highly enjoyed in Road No. 1 recently was imposing as director Min Hong Ki while Go Na Eun was Cruel City’s rotating cogwheel and she did a good work in presenting Lee Kyung Mi. Choi Moo Sung was also exceptional as a character bound to shake your nerves but occasionally warm your heart, Safari!

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Among others, when it comes to supportive roles and especially the villainous figures i shouldn’t forget to mention Scale (Kim Byung Ok), one of fashion police’s most wanted figures as he was a walking multicolored fabric crime, Meth Kim (Kim Min Sang) for being vicious, Eun Soo (Kim Hyo Sun) for her unforgiving character and last but not least the like father like son delirious and sickening duo of President Jo (Kim Jong Goo) and Jo Ha Neul (Jung Ji Soon).

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Cruel City is like a midnight summer dream in the heart of winter;
fragile, but not frail, yet raw and omnivore.

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elles viennent
autres et pareilles
avec chacune c'est autre et c'est pareille
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est autre
avec chacune l'absence d'amour est pareille
-Samuel Beckett-

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  1. bmore
    September 29, 2015 at 2:24 am — Reply

    Another great review. It’s been so long since I watched this show I’ve forgotten more than I remember, but the feelings I got from it are indelibly stamped in my mind and heart. There was chemistry to spare from this cast, with this story.

    • October 5, 2015 at 6:56 pm — Reply

      Thanks a lot for one more time for your words Bernie drama warrior! Indeed, it has these feelings that never leave you no matter how much time has passed since the time you watched it and no matter how many scenes that been left in the back of your mind! Chemistry was all over the place and to an extent, i regret watching it, because i would like to watch it again as if it was the first time and feel the same feels all along the way!

      • bmore
        October 5, 2015 at 7:02 pm — Reply

        One of the advantages of being old and forgetful and watching dramas by the hundreds each year is that when you watch them a second time, you are actually able to ALMOST feel the same feelings…since you are so senile you can’t remember what happened and you get to see it all with new eyes! So not everything about getting old is a downer! 😉

        • October 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm — Reply

          Hahaha, that was an awesome presentation of such a gracious dramadvantage! XD BTW, i still have to finish Last, i was so pissed off at the exams for not letting me be able to write about the episodes on time i gave up on the recaps, but i will write a review about it as soon as the thoughts are in the right place! XD

  2. September 29, 2015 at 9:27 am — Reply

    One of my favourite, if not my all time favourite, drama. Great review for this great drama. The only thing I’m gonna comment is one of my favourite “aspects” of the drama was Jung Kyung Ho’s acting. He was more than amazing. Especially his close-ups of his face and eyes said so much more than words could. Simple amazing!

    • October 5, 2015 at 6:57 pm — Reply

      Thank you so much for your words φωτεινή Φωτεινή! 😀 They are very much appreciated! 🙂 Jung Kyung Ho’s acting in this one was simply astonishing, i can’t imagine the drama with someone else, he had all the vibes of such a character more than right! Thanks a lot for one more time and sorry for the late reply! 🙂

  3. September 30, 2015 at 11:59 am — Reply

    This drama had a few issues on the twists-front (too many to be believable, I don’t wanna spoil) but the atmosphere and the directing is absolutely magnificent. Neo-noir picture (nearly) at its best!

    • October 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm — Reply

      Loved these twist-over-twist twisted ambiance! It was shaking my brain until they stopped appearing! Am i the only one who wants another like-minded noir drama from this screenwriter after this one and My Beautiful Bride? I’m already sure he’s already working on something evil!

      • bmore
        October 5, 2015 at 7:03 pm — Reply

        I HOPE AND PRAY!!!

  4. September 30, 2015 at 4:51 pm — Reply

    Heartless City was very good for the first eight episodes, after which it went steadily downhill. The twist became overused and kind of a joke, while characters made decisions worthy of several facepalms – you had to wonder how they achieved their status making the decisions they did. I think the writing somewhat went to the dogs in the latter half, which is a shame as I liked the first half of the drama. Infernal Affairs it is not, and somewhat style over substance. The OST was lovely, however, and Jung Kyung-ho and Choi Moo-sung were excellent in their respective roles.

    • October 5, 2015 at 8:14 pm — Reply

      Chiaki senpai!!! I guess it’s one of these dramas that either devour you to the fullest or it doesn’t work for you, like it happened to me in the first option and to you in the second one! 😀 I loved the twist-over-twist twisted ambiance! I can’t even count how many times i listened to this goddamn OST, some melodies are stuck in my mind! I witnessed around a certain love for Safari, but i could only sympathize with him as the drama was gradually reaching the end! 😀

      • October 5, 2015 at 11:54 pm — Reply

        Maestro! Hope all is well on your side of the world 🙂

        Haha, it actually worked for me for about 10 episodes – like I said, the first eight were excellent and I preferred Shi-hyun to be what he was in the first four episodes. I wish the writer had the guts to keep that Shi-hyun. The scene where he stitched himself up is still vivid in my mind, and Jung Kyung-ho was just superb throughout. I feel you on the OST! The main theme and instrumentals were so good. I really hoped the drama would be kickass until the end, but the logic fail in the latter half of the drama was too much for me to bear. Jin-sook became stupid and Soo-min was such a waste of time. Even Paksa got dumbed down. Very disappointing for me.

        • October 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm — Reply

          *moves his maestro stick* It kind of is, it kind of isn’t, well, dramas are a safe haven! 🙂
          Yup, halfway through it absorbed you and then it let you down, it happens with dramas! You wanted him to be Paksa Adeul all along the way without the undercover police identity, that would be a really interesting aspect too since it would be tougher for him to prove the whole truth! Haha, yup, like a boss and then drank his alcohol to forget about the pain! XD BTW, when i read Paksa at the end of your comment i laughed because i recently call my sister Paksa looool

  5. October 5, 2015 at 7:12 pm — Reply

    Took me a while to read it, but finally did 😀 Great review as always! I love the way you describe it. I still can’t really imagine how this drama is but I can’t wait to watch it. Just a question: Should watch this one first or My Beautiful Bride?

  6. October 6, 2015 at 1:59 am — Reply

    I guess I am one of the few who actually dropped this one, while I did love the directing, OST and Jung Kyung Ho’s great acting in it but I just couldn’t bring myself to continue after the 10th Episode.

    • October 6, 2015 at 4:09 pm — Reply

      Precious chingu!!! It probably wasn’t your cup of tea :/ But yes, directing, OST and Kyung Ho’s acting were superb and perfect for a noir drama!

    • October 7, 2015 at 12:08 am — Reply

      You didn’t miss much!

      • October 7, 2015 at 12:14 am — Reply

        It is actually sad when a drama starts off quite well with so much promising elements which was right up my alley and then fall flat for me and it was even sadder because I was actually excited to watch it after reading so many reviews. But I guess the recipe was just off for me ^^

        • October 7, 2015 at 3:42 am — Reply

          It is sad because it had the potential to amaze you, but it didn’t because it started lacking what should be there to keep you watching :/ Something that gladly didn’t happen to me! 😀 Aye, we can’t like all the recipes!

  7. December 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm — Reply

    scene meant that hyun soo is still alive (although the last few scenes made it kinda obvious that he’s gone…), he deserves way much more credit than this and the feelings between him and soo-min really needs to be developed…. It’s such a pity that they finally fell in love, she lost her virginity to him(and argueably his to her as well), but lost each other like that without actually explicitly expressing their love for each other

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