Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chuno Review (2010)

Drama Rating: **
Personal Rating: Disliked

Chuno tells of the slave hunter Lee Dae Gil who has been searching for his long-lost love, the slave Unnyeon.  Separately, general Song Tae Ha, a close confidante of the deposed Crown Prince, was serving as a slave before he hears news that the last surviving son of the Crown Prince is alive. On account of his sworn oath to the former Prince, he heads out to protect the Royal Successor.

*Spoiler warning*

Chuno offers a action-packed historical thriller that tells a great story overall but falls flat on its face in some respects. Some scenes are shot in remarkably beautiful locations, showing off the beauty of South Korean landscapes, but oftentimes, the credibility of the script takes a hit with some inexplicable incidents that really boggle my generally logical mind.. As one example, during Song Taeha's urgent chase to save the Crown Prince, why would he suddenly slow down and take a romantic walk by the ocean with Unnyeon. Later, when chasing after Chul Woong, he ends up leaving his weapon behind for Unnyeon when he knows he needs to fight a dangerous adversary!? Another completely galling moment was Hwang Chul Woong's complete character about-face at the end when he let Song Tae Ha go. How exactly was Chul Woong convinced of doing that when he had been doggedly chasing after Song Tae Ha for 24 episodes (and seeking his 'revenge' after so many years). These minor issues unfortunately plague the series very often, particularly the all-important ending, ruining what could have been a great series.

With big names helming the series and numerous recognizable faces taking on supporting roles, this drama set decently high expectations which it sadly didn't quite meet. The three key relationships in this drama don't bear much fruit in terms of chemistry as Oh Ji Oh and Lee Dae Ha felt as warm as two pieces of stone. Jang Hyuk's Lee Dae Gil is more memorable but he seems to use the same mannerisms and slight overacting as in Tree With Deep Roots, which was sufficient but not overly impressive. Han Jung Si clearly hasn't changed much from his days in Prosecutor Princess, acting out a rather boring General Choi. Kim Ha Eun's Seolhwa was a bit of an annoyance and the drama would really have been a bit more enjoyable without her presence. Only Kim Ji Suk's Wangson, Sung Dong Il's Cheon Jiho and seemed to add anything of note to the drama.

The series had a decent soundtrack although certain pieces were used a bit too often especially since this drama was 24 episodes long in comparison to the generally shorter 16 episode dramas. This made any repetition of music particularly noticeable and unwelcome. Additionally, the intensive rapping during the slave action sequences was a rather bold statement but I felt it was a bit out of character in a historical sageuk as it made it feel too modern and out of place.

After watching such great historical sageuks as Queen Seon Deok and Tree With Deep Roots, there's a certain level of writing and acting I expect and overall, this drama falls extremely short. Not since City Hunter have I seen such a crappy script. There is very weak direction to the script as it meanders here and there with weak supporting threads that don't really do much to bolster the main story (that's right, I'm looking at you Seolhwa). The ending had me in complete disbelief as scenes that stretched all credibility unfolded before my eyes. How on earth does a slave just saunter into the palace compound and kill as he pleases? (even if he had a gun, there were plenty of archers around atop Gwanghwamun). Beyond that, there were far too many questionable sequences in the drama that really left me wondering whether I should consider dropping it or just continue taking the whole thing as a complete joke. The only saving grace for this series was the great supporting performance by Sung Dong Il and the great filming locations used. Regardless of the high ratings this drama drew, I was certainly not impressed.

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