[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Name" Episode 1
By William Schwartz | Published on
Ji-woo (played by Han So-hee) is a high school student. Despite her father apparently being a big-shot gangster, Ji-woo goes to a pretty terrible school. Because her father is a big-shot gangster, the other students at school bully Ji-woo and push her to the breaking point. Consequently, Ji-woo's father meets an unfortunate fate. And so Ji-woo is set on the path to revenge by joining up with the Dongcheon Gang, which operates out of the scenic yet dirty looking port city of Busan.
"My Name" doesn't aim to do much in the way of surprises. Ji-woo fumbles around, and is finally taken in by the Dongcheon leader Moo-jin (played by Park Hee-seon). Director Kim Jin-min-I makes the sensible decision to end the first episode mid-punch to hopefully provide a cliffhanger of sufficient interest to make the viewer curious what happens next. As with "Squid Game" all of the episodes are available to view right now. I'm just limiting myself to one a day to avoid fatigue.
As the first Netflix original project since "Squid Game" there are a lot of expectations riding on "My Name" despite the lackluster promotional campaign. Which in all fairness, "Squid Game" didn't get either. For those with more interest in South Korean dramas than the latest fad, the better comparison point is "Extracurricular" which also came from director Kim Jin-min-I and featured similarly shocking imagery regarding high school students.
Of course, Ji-woo isn't technically a high school student anymore by the episode's end, but the same basic appeal applies. By the time we get to the montage of Ji-woo's rookie training, it's pretty clear that "My Name" is aiming for a Bruce Lee style serious action thriller. There's a lot of buff, tough-looking dudes spoiling for a fight. Ji-woo might be a girl, but still has a fighting chance by taking stock of her natural weaknesses. I fully expect Han So-hee to brutalize a lot of co-stars over the drama's run.
The main problem with "My Name" is...well, there's really not anything in the script that can be described as particularly distinctive or interesting. All of the characters are completely archetypal. We're led to believe that Ji-woo's father was a loving dad, or at least used to be before he cracked the most wanted list and had to go into hiding. The gangsters are all played as vaguely sympathetic, or at least cool. There's not much conflict. It all feels rather cursory.
Review by William Schwartz
"My Name" is directed by Kim Jin-min-I, written by Kim Ba-da, and features Han So-hee, Park Hee-soon, Kim Sang-ho, Ahn Bo-hyun, Lee Hak-joo, Chang Ryul. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/10/15~Now airing, Fri on Netflix.
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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.