Earlier this week I read criticism about the sudden romance that popped up in "Lawless Lawyer" and thought to myself, was it really bad? Then I watched the drama myself and yeah, it was pretty weird. The first scene we get is Jae-i (played by Seo Ye-ji) confronting Sang-pil (played by Lee Joon-gi) over why there are pictures of her mother (as well as Jae-i herself) on Sang-pil's investigation board. Even when Sang-pil provides a reasonable explanation, it's still fairly creepy how he didn't tell her this sooner.
Oh yeah, Jae-i and Sang-pil are both lawyers. The actual plot of "Lawless Lawyer" is about their effort to take down a crime ring run by the corrupt judge Moon-sook (played by Lee Hye-young-I) and corporate bigshot Oh-joo (played by Choi Min-soo). The situation is especially tense, because even though Moon-sook and Oh-joo know they are under attack, they are still moving ahead with plans to elect Oh-joo into a position of relevant political power.
"Lawless Lawyer" is actually pretty slick as long it's being a legal thriller. Moon-sook and Oh-joo are always a step ahead of Sang-pil and Jae-i because the lawyers are stuck investigating crimes that have already happened while Moon-sook and Oh-joo have moved on to newer ones. Moon-sook is mostly just annoyed at how Sang-pil ends up wrecking an attempted frame-up by the criminal conspiracy in the climax. But Moon-sook is a woman of quiet, psychotic precision. Which is a nice counterpoint to Oh-joo just being an aggressive swindler.
The extended kiss and implied sex scene between Sang-il and Jae-i really does not fit into that very well. Even on an emotonal level those scripting choices interfere with Jae-i's emotional tension when it comes to learning of her mother's role in the conspiracy. Jae-i needs space, and maybe a hug. Anything beyond that comes off as borderline rapey, even when taking the appeal of Lee Joon-gi's giant manly arms into account.
That scene was an awkward tonal choice in a drama that's otherwise a very engaging legal thriller. There's some surprising emotional complexity here from generally archetypal characters. I liked the bit where Jae-i's dad Gi-ho (played by Lee Han-wi) gets suckered into supporting Oh-soo's campaign, because he likes the guy's rude aggressive attitude toward solving problems. What better explanation is there than charisma to explain how people as obviously evil as Moon-sook and Oh-joo came to be so powerful?
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 email@example.com. 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 6"
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