I like how even though we understand how Moon-sook's scam works, Soon-ja is still completely oblivious. As tempting as it is to write Soon-ja off as just being really dumb for failing to realize that Moon-sook set her up, it's worth noting that all of Moon-sook's cronies have been rationalizing Moon-sook's failure to act the same way. It's just that back then we (and they) were inclined to see Sang-pil as the real threat, such that Moon-sook's actions could be justified under the auspice of self-preservation.
The main wrench that's thrown into this plan is that Sang-pil makes no effort to beat down on Soon-ja. To the contrary, while Moon-sook has all manner of excuses for why she can't help, Sang-pil pops up straightaway and offers to make Soon-ja a deal. Of course, Soon-ja doesn't actually trust Sang-pil to do anything, but the question is still raised. Given that Soon-ja's true motivation is to further her daughter's career, how loyal is she to Moon-sook really?
I do wish the threat hanging over Soon-ja's head was a little more credible. While we may know that Hyeon-joo is actually alive, the lack of evidence that Hyeon-joo is dead makes the prosecution's entire case dubious to begin with. Observe that no one even knows who Hyeon-joo really is. She's just referred to as the Thai massage therapist. She may just as well have fled the country. Especially since Soon-ja was trying to kill her.
I'm also disappointed in how, even in the midst of the climax, Jae-i doesn't really add anything to the operation at all. In all fairness Sang-pil is also more of a reactive character than a proactive character. A lot of the time I get the feeling that "Lawless Lawyer" would work a lot better if Sang-pil and Jae-i were supporting cast rather than the leads, with the perspective character being someone who works for Moon-sook slowly coming to realize that Moon-sook is actually evil.
Well, strictly speaking that was Jae-i's character arc in the early episodes. Which is the main problem really. She just hasn't done much since then. Meanwhile, we've got Oh-joo furiously slurping ramen and watching television coming up with his own largely undescribed scenes. Even Yeon-hee, a very minor character by all accounts, is starting to realize just how pernicious and unhealthy the relationship between her mother and Moon-sook really is. Other minor characters similarly are interesting chiefly because they grapple with moral ambiguity.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 14"
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