Tough as Iron Review

Posted by Stephanie on October 24, 2013


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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of Korean movies. I don’t know–I’m usually just disappointed in them. It’s either the tone or the storyline itself or the ending. It was one of the things which almost held me back from going into the city to watch Tough As Iron the other weekend. But you know what? This movie was great!

It wasn’t just because of the whole experience, but I liked the story, the quality of the film and the acting was top notch.

For a drama which is billed as an action flick (kid gets mixed up in the mob in order to earn money for mothers surgery) this drama is not jam packed with the action I thought it was going to be. But you know what? I liked the story even more for that. This is a character drama about a guy and his relationship with his disabled mother. Throughout the story, as he’s desperately trying to find a way to get the money together to get her the surgery she needs, he again and again sticks to his principals and refuses any access to the mob and it’s ‘easy money’.tough as iron2

You wouldn’t think that a movie like this would touch me—but I was drawn to the relationship of the hero with his mother. The fact that he loves her, he’s willing to do anything for her, but at the same time there’s heartbreak and resentment there. The two scenes which struck me the most was one, when he woke up in the morning and she had, what he thought was a moment of clarity, a moment where his mother was back and taking care of him, only to realize she thought he was in kindergarten? The slow realization and the visual crashing of his hopes? Broke my heart.

The other scene was when they found his mother happily riding the bus after they had been frantically searching for her throughout the city. For the first time he lets out his anger and resentment over the whole situation. He loves his mother, but he’s been forced to be the parent for too long. There is nothing that he can do to get away, to make their situation any better. He never asked for this, it’s a cross he’ll have to bear for the rest of her life.tough as iron11

I completely understood where he was coming from, his frustration, knowing that he can’t get out, and how he hated himself for wanting to.

And then the kick-assing started.

Perhaps because I did relate to the main character seeing him get tangled in the mob, through no fault of his own, was so disheartening. I didn’t see any way out for him. It wasn’t like he had some hidden street-fighting skills. And it was clear that the mobsters found him to be completely disposable. But I think this is where his pent up frustration and anger worked for him.

<SPOILER> I thought they made a great choice with the ending they went with. When I saw where it was going, I was worried, knowing Korean movie’s love for the dripping wet-sobby ending, but while there were tears, it ended on a positive note I didn’t expect. Yes, it was sad, but he can now go on with his life without guilt, knowing he loved and had done everything possible to save his mother. </SPOILER>

Now there was a romance storyline in the drama. Of anything, this is probably the one part of the drama that could have been lifted from the story. It didn’t really have any effect on the plotline itself. The only reason it might be there? She was a free-spirited traveler going wherever her whims took her. She represented everything that was denied him because of his ties to his mother. She wasn’t the reason why he got frustrated with his mother, but she was another straw on the camels back.

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One thing I would call the movie on was the need to put a note up on the screen after we met the stuttering brother of the gang boss. The placard told us he stuttered whenever he was flustered or angry. I wouldn’t have minded so much if we’d had text any other time in the drama, but that was it. We as an audience didn’t need to be told that. We could see it right there in every scene he was in. This is a cheating writing trick. And again–unnecessary.

I came out of this movie very impressed with Yoo Ah In and his acting ability. I loved him in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and have also enjoyed him in anything else I’ve seen him in (I have, of course, avoided Fashion King like the plague it’s reported to be.) He is a solid actor, and I can’t wait to see what else he can do.

This movie was completely satisfying. It had a bit (a very little bit) of romance, a couple of great characters, some action, and a good ending. Exactly the sort of movie I like. So if you get a chance–check it out–you won’t be sorry!

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