Good action shows can be hard to come by in Korean drama, especially outside of the crime-oriented channel OCN. Its sister channel, tvN is more known for its romantic comedies and other lighter offerings, but has occasionally taken a shot at darker works. "Hidden Identity" is tvN's latest attempt at a sleek action show, offering a unique blend of actors and crime-fighting suspense. While not brilliant, it is quite a nice addition to the action genre.
The series follows an investigative team operating largely in secret and not always within the law. Cha Geon-woo (Kim Beom), their latest recruit is out for revenge over the death of his girlfriend; a death related to the latest case the team is handling. Jang Moo-won (Park Sung-woong) is the team's mysterious, but capable leader and someone who knows of Geon-woo's past. The team finds itself as the only group capable of capturing a dangerous individual called the Ghost.
Action is not usually a genre associated with interesting moral exploration and character development. "Hidden Identity" does not exactly go deep into its characters and definitely not equally, but there are some interesting topics mentioned. The series includes some social commentary on politics, social responsibility, justice, honor and the like and while it does not really explore them much, there is some food for thought here and engaging emotions. This creates an emotional connection that the action itself never could. That said, this connection comes scarcely and mostly later in the drama, something which will be talked about more further into the review.
In its more practical aspects, the show does not fall short. This is a well-filmed and beautifully presented action piece. The fight scenes are great and they do not take over the plot unless needed, the confrontations are enjoyable and thrilling and the acting is for the most part great. It is worth mentioning that the series also has a sensible plot, where at least the major parts are neatly brought together by the end, even if the process to get there could have been more exciting.
The series has its issues when it comes to escalating its plot, in that it does not do much to give the viewer a sense of accomplishment. Each villain confronted in a case-by-case basis is related to the Ghost, but the team does not feel closer to this mysterious criminal with every solved case. This makes their work feel like an exercise in futility. It also creates the common convenience writing to keep the good guys from their goal until the finale. The only reason they even find the Ghost is because the Ghost chooses to be found.
Because the drama tries too hard to keep its meaty twists concealed, it fails to aim for the necessary emotional involvement with all of its heroes and villains that is needed in order for the endgame revelations to have impact. Said villains have quirks and the show attempts to make them unique, but they still come across as slightly richer stereotypes than full characters. On the other hand, the characters whose drama the show focuses on end up not being as important in the big picture.
"Hidden Identity" falls somewhere between action piece and revenge drama. It is not as superficial as the former genre gets, but it also does not use its backstory and characters as well as it could have to be a good revenge work. Nevertheless, it presents some interesting ideas about important topics. Perhaps best viewed as cool action with some things to say, "Hidden Identity" is an entertaining, well-made show.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Hidden Identity""
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