Hae-woo: What do you like most in the world?
Yi-soo: Sharks. Sharks don’t have swim bladders.
Hae-woo: Then how do they live?
Yi-soo: To live, they must swim endlessly since if they stop swimming, they die. Even when they sleep, they must keep moving.
Hae-woo: They lead very tiresome lives.
Yi-soo: Still, sharks are the the strongest in the ocean.
Hae-woo: So is that why you like sharks? Because they are strong?
Yi-soo: No, I pity them. No one likes them.
Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 6/10
A darkish melodrama focused on revenge, Shark is the story of Han Yi-soo, a boy whose father is murdered by a powerful, wealthy man with secrets to keep.
Despite old ties with the family, Jo Sang-deuk turns against his longtime confidant and retainer, Han Young-man, and has him killed when Young-man, ridden with past guilt, decides to turn himself in and tell all. The young Yi-soo, who shares a mutual attraction and affection with Sang-deuk’s granddaughter, is an unfortunate witness to his father’s murder and becomes a target as well.
The plot, however, is secretly foiled with the assistance of an equally powerful man set on his own revenge against the murdering magnate. Yi-soo is rescued and brought up in Japan as the adoptive son of Junichuro Yoshimira. Eventually, he returns to Korea as a powerful businessman with a need for revenge against the family that destroyed his own.
Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10
There are places where the story bogs down a bit, but overall, the general flow is pretty good. The story itself is not particularly unique, but the execution is authentic and engaging.
The story begins with the main characters in their youth. While the young actors are good, the back story, in retrospect, is not entirely necessary and probably could have been accomplished in less time with retrospective scenes. The time spent in the past is not entirely wasted, but does add length to a drama that already feels a bit longer than necessary.
Kim Nam-gil (Bad Guy, Queen Seondeok) is well suited to the dark, tragic nature of this drama. The character of Yi-soo, however, lacks a certain credibility with respect to his feelings for Hae-woo. The dark side of his nature is believable to the extreme, but the tender side feels implausible.
However, the difficulties in Nam-gil’s character made the role of Hae-woo all the more plausible in her empathy and unquestioning compassion for the broken Yi-soo. Son Ye-jin (Personal Taste, Summer Scent) is ideally cast opposite the stoic Nam-gil. Her anguished tug-of-war between loyalty to her husband and her need to ‘save’ Yi-soo is one of the major emotional elements in the drama. The other is her struggle to choose between family and justice. Both are interesting difficulties that the actress handles with passion and depth.
And yes, here again there was a “Ji-Hoo” character, but with a twist: Ha Seok-jin (Standby, If Tomorrow Comes) was Oh Joon-young, childhood friend of Yi-soo and Hae-woo, the ‘oppa’ who stands by, protects, and loves Hae-woo through the difficult years when Yi-soo is presumed dead, and who finally marries the woman he so loves. And Hae-woo loves him too. But it gets very complicated when Han Yi-soo returns as if from the dead. How is a best friend supposed to react? Especially when it is also his wife’s first love? Ha Seok-jin is brilliantly spot-on emotionally throughout the drama. The script is well-written as well, credibly reflecting how a man of integrity might react in such a situation. His character is, by far, the most emotionally engaging of the entire cast.
Unlike most dramas, especially darker ones, there is no outrageously despicably evil villain. There is a main villain, to be sure, but he is disguised behind the benign, benevolent mask of the family patriarch, Jo Sang-deuk, embodied by Lee Jung-gil (IRIS II, The Chaser). His character morphs amazingly from gentle grandpa to scheming villain in moments. The transformations are remarkably and frighteningly real.
Many of the other ‘villains’ are either characters for whom we can easily empathize (or come to empathize at some point) or minor thugs and greedy political schemers.
There is a nice selection of side characters that drew my attention as well:
- Park Won-sang (Nine Times Time Travel, Warrior Baek Dong Soo) is Detective Byun Bang-jin, one of the few men of integrity in the early days when Jo Sang-deuk’s large wallet controlled the justice department. When the father is murdered and Yisoo is presumed dead, he also adopts Yi-soo’s little sister. His performance iss perfect.
- Nam Bo-ra (Moon Embracing the Sun, Glory Jane) is Yi-Soo’s little sister Han Yu-ri. She is a sweet, innocent and rather dimensionless character, but lovable nonetheless. I would love to see this actress in a more challenging role.
- Lee Ha-nui (Miss Universe 2007, Pasta, To the Beautiful You) is Jang Young-hee, Yi-soo’s personal secretary and ‘undercover’ spy for Yi-soo’s adoptive father who trusts no one, not even his son. The role calls for a sweet, soft-spoken woman suffering a one-sided love for her boss, but with a family debt owed to the father of the boss. The role is, at best, a sweet distraction, but engaging nonetheless.
- Lee Soo-hyuk (Vampire Idol, What’s Up) is the prosecutor’s investigator Kim Soo-hyun. He grew up very close to Yi-soo as a little brother, rescued from the streets. His family is also intricately tied into the murder plots, and as such, has a revenge agenda of his own. His love interest lies in the sweet-natured Han Yu-ri.
- Lee Jae-gu (War of the Arrows, I Am the King) plays Junichiro Yoshimura. A veteran of the big screen but new to the small screen, Lee Jae-gu portrays the adoptive father of Han Yi-soo. As an ex-Japanese mobster, he displays a refined tough-guy persona that fits him well.
Cinematography: My Rating 7/10
The cinematography does a lot to set the mood of the drama. The general feeling of darkness in many of the images imbues a feel of misery and hopelessness. Retrospectively, the feel of the drama is well served by great lighting and imagery.
Music: My Rating 6/10
“Between Heaven and Hell” BoA http://youtu.be/mhrNZsfrFhQ
Excellent, sad ballad: “Sad Story” Chung Dong-ah of Boohwal http://youtu.be/LyCopOH5c04
Another really nice ballad: “Countless Days” Na Yoon-kwan http://youtu.be/dhADnT5Tqj4
“Poison Love” Lim Jeong-hee http://youtu.be/KL2jaBldfMw
Overall Charisma: My Rating 6/10
“Shark” is a drama that I had no difficulty watching from beginning to end. While there does not seem to be anything truly outstanding about the series, it is nonetheless engaging, and some of the characters are truly interesting. If the pace lagged a bit a times, it still piqued my curiosity enough to keep me coming back for the next episode.
Happy Drama Watching!
Director: Park Chan Hong, Cha Young-hoon
Screenwriter: Kim Ji-woo