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Lawless Lawyer (2018)


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After spending 18 years in Seoul biding his time, Bong Sang-pil (Lee Joon-gi) returns to Gisung, the place he spent as a child with his working mother. It is also where he last saw his mother alive. Sang-pil barely escaped with his life and went to live with his gangland boss uncle (Ahn Nae-sang). As soon as the stars align ie. when a series of circumstances come into play, Sang-pil immediately heads back to his hometown in readiness to execute his scheme to take down those who are responsible for his mother’s death. One event includes the suspension and sacking of another lawyer, the hot headed Ha Jae-yi (Seo Yea-ji), also an immigrant from Gisung. Although it isn’t immediately apparent, he’d been observing her for a while. Eventually she becomes embroiled in his big revenge plot.

 

Sang-pil lives up to his appellation as a badge of honour, coming across more as a smooth-talking hustler than a serious trial lawyer. All of that belies a steely resolve and a deep personal anguish to see justice done. He keeps a statue of Lady Justice close-by as a reminder that he will exploit the law as his weapon to do what is necessary to right past wrongs. In their early interactions, Jae-yi is suitably unimpressed with Sang-pil who seems to her more like a trashy gangster who resorts to unethical means to get his way.

 

Sang-pil’s greatest adversary, and the real power behind Gisung is Judge Cha Moon-seok (Lee Hye-young) who is something of a cult figure in the city for her impartial judgments and charity work. In so doing she has built a reputation for being a champion for the underdog. Her late father was also a revered judge. Away from public scrutiny and when the altruistic facade is allowed to drop, Cha Moon-seok is revealed to be a highly corrupt, unconscionable and hugely ambitious political aspirant. Through her the show moralizes about the attribution of god-like status to mere mortals and the problem with blind and mindless devotion. Cha Moon-seok uses her currency as the people’s judge (and her father’s daughter) to wield unchecked power behind the scenes. She is in effect the Queen of Gisung as depicted by all the kowtowing done by her bootlicking minions. According to rumours from certain quarters, Cha Moon-seok was patterned after SK’s first female president, Park Gun-hye who is now serving a 25-year term in prison for bribery and corruption. 

 

 

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One of her more prominent subjects is the mercurial An O-ju (Choi Min-su) who has attained a measure respectability as the CEO of a conglomerate despite his lowly beginnings as an insignificant lowlife He does the judge’s dirty bidding and cleans up where necessary.  An O-ju is a fascinating figure because despite his background, he isn’t necessarily content to be the judge’s lap dog perpetually. He too demonstrates a flair for the game that he is inevitably drawn into.

 

As Lawless Lawyer is less a crime show and more a revenge-political drama, it’s never any mystery who the conspirators are. What we’re privy to is a cat and mouse game initiated by Sang-pil and Co against the Goliaths of the city starting from the bottom feeders of the food chain. Our titular antihero sets up shop where his mother once had her law practice and manages to co-opt the idealistic Jae-yi to be his reluctant office manager as well as a motley crew of former loansharks. They are the show’s unerring comic relief.

 

The show flies off to a promising start moving at breakneck speed from set-up to Sang-pil’s opening move in his chess game. After receiving a mysterious notebook and Jae-yi’s sacking from her law firm, he jumps into his flashy sports car and into an unknown future. While the show remains entertaining and lively for the most part, it never reaches the pinnacle of its potential as far as plot is concerned. Even if there are Count of Monte Cristo resonances, the juggling act is seldom as adept as other more recent equivalents like Money Flower or Doctor Prisoner.  The first half of the show is excellent and loads of fun but then it suffers from a repetitive and weaker third act. I would say in all frankness that the cat and mouse game as it played out lacked the stamina to go the distance. Thankfully though there are some nice action sequences to distract us some of the time which involves the multi-talented and exceedingly agile Lee Joon-gi who does all his own stunts. 

 

As a whole the stellar lineup do their best. There’s no doubt every character is well-cast. The veterans Lee Hye-young and Choi Min-su are scene stealers. Choi Min-su often chews the scenery. Both Cha Moon-seok and An O-ju are certainly depicted as larger-than-life characters. They also divert the audience from the flaws of the final act especially when it feels as if the writer has run out of good ideas. While Lee Joon-gi and Seo Yea-ji do a great job with what they’ve been given, (Lee Joon-gi gives a reliably nuanced performance) their characters are often overshadowed by the villains of the piece. The show does a decent enough job taking advantage their terrific onscreen chemistry but theirs isn’t a slow burn romance by any stretch of the imagination which did cause some controversy at the time. 

 

Nothing in this show can be accused of moving slowly. As far as memory serves at least.

 

Mention should also be made of the rip-roaring introduction and closing OSTs. It’s one of the highlights in this largely entertaining and good-natured romp. 

 

Plot: 8

Storytelling: 7

Cast/Acting: 10

Production Values: 8.5

Rewatch Value: 7

 

 

 

Edited by 40somethingahjumma
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Currently Watching:  The Veil, Hometown, Da-li and the Cocky Prince, The King's Affection, Truth, Rebirth for You

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"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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I really enjoyed this drama. I thought that Lee Joon Gi and Son Ye Ji had great chemistry and their romance/bickering was a lot of fun to watch, smacking of screwball comedy romances.

 

As you say, though, the villains of this piece were fantastic, though the backstabs and betrayals didn't always make a lot of sense, causing it to suffer in the latter half of the drama.

 

For me, the comic parts of this drama, e.g. the romance plus the scenes with LJG and his "henchmen" were a lot more fun to watch than the revenge and political intrigue. They had their moments, but suffered a bit from the plotting and the lack of actual suspense.

 

Thanks for the review!

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I just finished LL 2 days ago and it's a really great drama. I love how the villains were written. It's a drama with villains done right and the villain casts rightly chose. The Judge is a superb actress, she rarely spoke (I am sure her script must be a thin one) but from her expression or a lift of an eyebrow or a twitch of her jaw or a stare, we can easily understand there is something stink brewing in her mind. The Mayor is a polar opposite though, he was a talkative one and spilled every single evil plans he had out loud for the viewers.....But he is a very charismatic villain with swags.....

 

OTP's chemistry was superb too. LSG with charismatic persona of a gangster swags and sprinkled with his passion as a lover who will turns on his beastly mode when his love ones were threaten is enjoyable to watch. BSP is a role tailored for LSG perfectly.  SYJ is great as a strong female with no nonsense attitude. I like her because she seems to shun a damsel in distressed kind of roles.....

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Thanks for the review @40somethingahjumma.  @OsmanthusTea, I felt the villains here were not the usual two dimensional sort of characters, and they were rather well fleshed out ,  so much so I was watching the drama just to see the scheming. I remember being particularly impressed with the actress playing Judge Cha. This was a decent watch , and I watched  it as an ongoing drama (it was able to keep my interest for 8 weeks) though I agree that the final arc wasn't as good as I had hoped ( ahhh many k dramas suffer from this).

 

Overall given that it was a revenge melodrama, I wasn't expecting the usual recipe for the romance. I didn't mind the way it developed and I thought the pair matched well. I like their bickering scenes too @stroppyse , and the folks at the Lawless office were rather cute

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And the cute unexpected love line at the end :D

Spoiler

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