[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Song of the Bandits" Episodes 2-7
By William Schwartz | Published on
It's been ten days since "Song of the Bandits" came out on Netflix, and it's safe to say the drama hasn't had much long-term impact. Official Netflix figures gave it 14.9 million views over its first three days. This was less than the 19.7 million views "A Time Called You" had in its third week. The data since then hasn't had much better- according to FlixPatrol, "Song of the Bandits" is currently only the number one drama in South Korea, and only charts in the top ten in seven other markets, most significantly as the number four serial drama in Nigeria.
Why the shortfall? Well, for the same reason I'm cramming six whole episodes into a single review. "Song of the Bandits" is quite long, but has surprisingly little story to really justify the runtime. There's only really one major plot point- the mad dash by various factions to grab the railroad money. Every individual episode of "Song of the Bandits" is just a very drawn-out version of a single major scene and plot twist.
"Song of the Bandits" extends this narrative with character-based subplots, most notably with Eon-nyeon (played by Lee Ho-jung), the assassin who was supposed to kill Kim Nam-gil's character Yoon in the first episode but decided not to bother with it. Despite Lee Ho-jung's performance being quite good, oftentimes even better than Kim Nam-gil's, she struggles for relevance in the story. Extended flashbacks don't do much to help her character, who works best in the narrative as an unaligned wild card with ambiguous motivation.
But Hee-shin (played by Seohyun) is even more superfluous. I was a bit surprised to realize that by the end of the seventh episode, we still know almost nothing about her, and it takes a surprisingly long time for the script to even have Yoon and Hee-shin acknowledge their preexisting relationship. The backstory just isn't terribly interesting, except to the extent it affects how the main characters interpret the ongoing conflict.
All of this is to say that "Song of the Bandits" would work a lot better as a tightly edited movie, which is a criticism that can be made of a lot of Netflix projects and not just the Korean ones. To be fair, if you like Western style action with a lot of emphasis on antique guns, "Song of the Bandits" is still a fun enough time, which is why I've stuck around with it for this long. The drama's just a tough sell for a more mainstream audience is the issue with it.
Written by William Schwartz
"Song of the Bandits" is directed by Hwang Joon-hyeok, Park Hyeon-seok, written by Han Jeong-hoon, and features Kim Nam-gil, Seohyun, Yoo Jae-myung, Lee Hyun-wook-I, Lee Ho-jung, Kim Do-yoon-I. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2023/09/22, Fri on Netflix.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea from 2011 to 2021. He is currently located in the Portland metropolitan area. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com, and is open to requests for content in future articles.