Three years after a catastrophic mission which led to his partner’s death and put an end to his career as a secret agent, Baek Si-Yoon (Park Shi-Hoo) takes over a bar and starts the hunt for the culprits. His thirst for justice leads him to use his skills to protect the shop-owners of the neighborhood, threatened by shameless promoters who want to replace their shops with a luxury mall.
Here is another comeback, this one for Park Shi-Hoo. Between the lead actor of The Princess’ Man and a plot centered around secret agents, Neighborhood Hero had everything to please. Unfortunately, I quickly lost interest, for two reasons. First, every single retired spy seems to hang out at the same bar in Seoul. Second, those few characters who don’t actually have any training seem determined to improvise, from the housewife to the screenwriter barmaid—who never seems to be doing her job, by the way. I’m a pretty generous and accepting audience, but there are limits to what even I’m willing to believe, and Neighborhood Hero crosses them far too many times for my taste.
To be quite honest, I was also disappointed by Park Shi-Hoo’s acting. While his performance in The Princess’ Man was stunning and deeply moving, I felt that he was using the exact same emotion range as Baek Shi-Yoon that he did for Kim Seung-Yoo, and sure, those are both revenge dramas, but both the characters and the time period are nothing alike. They say practice makes perfect, well, Park Shi-Hoo hasn’t practiced in quite a while, and his performance unfortunately suffers for it.
The rest of the cast was just as disappointing, except maybe Lee Soo-Hyuk, evil vampire overlord in Scholar Who Walks the Night, here an aspiring police officer whose main characteristic is to be completly dumb and dazed. Sure, he gets (slightly) better in the second half of the show, but his slow mannerisms, half-lidded eyes and constant drawl make him sound completely retarded for the better part of eight episodes. I suppose you could applaud his performance, as his interpretation of the evil Gwi as Lee Joon-Ki’s character’s worst enemy was quite convincing.
Moving on to female characters, I’ve rarely seen any that bored me that much. Barmaid Bae Jung-Yeon (SNSD singer Yuri), whose name is only ever pronounced once in episode 14, if I remember properly, and her shopowner friend swing constantly between helpless victims and giggling fangirls, while secret agent Seo Ahn, who, as a trained operative, had all the keys to do something far more badass than play femme fatale bait, is about as tasteful as the flowerpot she borrows her emotional range from. Every single one of her actions is in some way dictated by her feelings for Baek Shi-Yoon, she has no agency of her own whatsoever. I find myself wondering what she could have been doing during the three years he was out of her life, because I can’t imagine her doing anything other than rocking in a dark corner somewhere, crying.
What to say of the redundant and frankly useless scenes of Baek Si-Yoon standing in his kitchen with his gun in hand, staring at it dazedly, shoulders slanted back just so? A gun he doesn’t even use… The bad guys who aren’t so bad after all, you know, life’s tough, they do what they gotta do, but they’re actually precious babies under that tough exterior… Should I talk about the ajumma who goes to visit her son’s would-be murderer in prison, and ends up offering him room and board when she hears he’s having financial trouble? I do believe in people’s good hearts, but that’s pushing it a little too far.
To sum it up in a few words: lukewarm. Lukewarm, and overly dramatic. It’s not believable, because everything is so overracted (from Yuri’s raised eyebrow/encouraging nod/small smile to Baek Si-Yoon’s gun scenes) that it becomes ridiculous. The actors look directly at the camera, one of them even straight out saying they’re in a drama and questioning the script, I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. In the end, there are no emotions to be felt about the characters because we don’t care about them and what happens to them (except maybe Baek Si-Yoon because he wears his suits very well), and none of them is loveable or hateable enough to inspire anything more than deep, boring apathy.
Watch it if you’re feeling desperate, but don’t bother otherwise.
Title: Neighborhood Hero
Country: South Korea
Cast: Park Shi-Hoo, Lee Soo-Hyuk, Jeong Man-Sik, Kwon Yuri (SNSD)
Aired: 01/23/2016 to 03/20/2016
Number of Episodes: 16
Genres: Action, Revenge, Mystery.