Bad Guys: Episode 1
Seriously badass. I’d been hoping that cable network OCN’s newest crime thriller Bad Guys would satisfy my thirst for some gritty suspense and my hunger for some action-packed sequences—suffice it to say that it does, and then some. Not only does this show deliver on the slick and edgy directing style we’ve come to expect from this genre, but Bad Guys also boasts a strong narrative and tough characters who each pack their own mighty punch.
And while the idea of a rugged detective gathering a team of convicts to relentlessly hunt down even bigger baddies may sound like a dangerous gamble, I’d argue: who better is there to know the inner workings of a criminal’s mind than a man who’s committed a crime himself? In that case, tapping into a mob boss’s brawn, an assassin’s skills, and a genius psychopath’s brain might not be such a bad idea after all.
Bad Guys even made an impressive showing in the ratings by snagging first place in its timeslot with a solid 2.1% (the minute-to-minute ratings peaked at 3.2%). And even though I like what I see, I’m holding off on promising recaps, and keeping my eyes open to what else this upcoming season will bring.
SONG OF THE DAY
John Park – “U” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1: Crazy Dogs
In an interview, violent crimes detective Nam Gun-wook introduces himself to the camera. His current case takes us out into the field on a rainy night, where he tells the VJ sitting beside him of a serial killer who’s been preying upon random women in the rain for the past six months.
Snippets of his interview are intercut with the appearance of a hooded figure wielding a knife, following his next target. And as Detective Nam jumps out of his car to prevent another murder from taking place, he tells the camera that there are times in his line of work when you come across a criminal that you’ll risk your life to capture.
As the detective gives chase through the darkened, narrow streets, he says that in those times, he’s aware that he may never see his family’s faces again.
Which is why he and his fellow detectives can’t ever really put their lives on the line in this job. Because if they die, “then who will protect our families?”
In the pouring rain, the hooded figure stabs Detective Nam repeatedly before disappearing into the night. So the perp’s long gone by the time the VJ finds the wounded detective; it doesn’t look like he’s going to make it.
It’s also raining heavily during Detective Nam’s funeral, where police commissioner NAM GU-HYUN (Kang Shin-il) has the crying child — the fallen detective’s son and his own grandson — promise never to follow in his father’s footsteps. Aha, so the late Detective Nam was his son.
Afterward, he quietly asks after an Oh Goo-tak, which has an officer wondering why he’s suddenly looking for “that crazy dog.”
In a shabby apartment, a scruffy-looking man rouses out of bed; he’s the aforementioned OH GOO-TAK (Kim Sang-joong, yay!!), who prepares a simple breakfast for himself in his hungover state. Playing in the background is a televised interview, where police inspector YOO MI-YOUNG (Kang Ye-won) is being questioned on the police’s effectiveness in catching violent offenders in light of Detective Nam’s death.
Goo-tak barely gets a bite in before being called outside by Commissioner Nam, who asks if he’d like to return to the police force. Commissioner Nam wants him to hunt down the bastard that brutally killed his son a few days ago, promising to free Goo-tak of his pent-up rage and resentment should he succeed.
“Beating up a kind man is violence, but beating up a bad guy… that’s justice,” Commissioner Nam states firmly.
A flashback sheds light onto Goo-tak’s tragic past, back when he discovered his murdered teenage daughter and sobbed over her lifeless body. Back in the present, we learn that it was Goo-tak’s doggedness in catching criminals that earned him his “crazy dog” nickname; however, it was also his use of excessive force that eventually got him suspended.
Convinced that Goo-tak will come around, Commissioner Nam tells Mi-young that he just needs some time.
Commissioner Nam’s words of violence and justice still echo in Goo-tak’s head later that evening when he sees a pair of men harassing a woman in the street. For a brief moment, it seems like Goo-tak decides to turn a blind eye to the matter, but then we see him wield a wooden stick against the hoodlums.
It’s when he grabs one of them in a chokehold that Mi-young—who’s been trailing behind him—finally intervenes before he kills the guy. Letting go, Goo-tak tells her that they’ll be assembling a team of a few more “crazy dogs.”
He already has a few names in mind by the time he sees Mi-young next. All currently imprisoned, we’re introduced to each criminal in turn: first up is PARK WOONG-CHUL (Ma Dong-seok), a mob boss who overtook Seoul in just 25 days. The strong man fiercely protects his own, as evidenced when he takes down the prison guard who dared to hit one of his boys.
Next is JUNG TAE-SOO (Jo Dong-hyuk), a killer for hire whose hits were never linked back to him, but suddenly turned himself in one day. (And why thank you, Bad Guys, for that
gratuitous gracious abs display intro.)
Rounding out the pack is LEE JUNG-MOON (Park Hae-jin), a genius psychopath with an IQ of 160 at the age of twelve. He holds the record of being the youngest in three categories: acquiring a Mensa membership, holding a doctorate in philosophy and mathematics, and… becoming the youngest serial killer after murdering fifteen people in a span of eight months.
Not a single trace of evidence was found in those murders apart from the victim’s bodies, Goo-tak notes. Mi-young asks why it has to be these men—no, these beasts, to which Goo-tak argues that tapping into their strength, skills, and intellect will allow them to catch any criminal out there.
With the right incentive, those beasts will be obedient enough, too, he adds. Needless to say Mi-young doesn’t like the idea of using a team of convicts to catch other criminals, though she’s later reminded of how she went on national television and declared that the current law enforcement weren’t any better at the task.
In fact, Commissioner Nam uses her reluctance of touching fishing worms to illustrate her prejudice about working with society’s bad apples. But one can’t catch fish without those so-called dirty worms, he says. All Mi-young has to do is cast the rod, and he’ll take care of the rest.
Over at their rendezvous point at an abandoned church, Goo-tak chuckles at the fishing metaphor, then swigs another drink before settling in for a nap. He waves away Mi-young’s attempts to establish some formality in either language or mannerisms, and makes it clear that he doesn’t put up with anyone who tries to take the reins away from him.
A little while later, two of our three convicts arrive at the church in plain clothes and handcuffs. Suffice it to say that Woong-chul and Tae-soo exchange terse greetings before Mi-young introduces herself and leads them inside.
Her professionalism leaves Woong-chul wondering, “Is she confident or mannerless?” Something tells me he’ll be delivering the one-liners in this show.
Once inside, Mi-young gets down to business and invites them to look over the casefile on their serial killer who’s murdered eight people already. Woong-chul notes that they’re here without being previously told where they were going, let alone why they’re privy to this case, to which Mi-young’s like, Why else? You’re here to catch the murderer.
Woong-chul scoffs at that, thinking that the pretty lady’s messing with him, and Tae-soo advises that he doesn’t make his ignorance so obvious. Insulted, Woong-chul hurls the first punch.
Tae-soo ducks, then gets a few punches in before Woong-chul grabs him in a chokehold. Tae-soo pushes Woong-chul off of him, and Mi-young tells them to cut it out. But that’s when Goo-tak finally appears and encourages the two convicts to keep at it.
He’ll just keep talking while they fight: the one who catches this serial killer will receive a five-year reduction in his jail sentence. Since each of them are serving at least two decades’ worth of time, this offer can certainly help. If there aren’t any questions, they can go ahead and carry on their little fight.
Woong-chul turns to Mi-young to ask who this random ajusshi is, only to be told that Goo-tak is the detective in charge. He’s also told that while they’re able to roam without cuffs, their pseudo freedom comes with a long list of restrictions from no alcohol, women, driving, violence, weapons, and so on—so basically, everything.
But Goo-tak encourages them in that same polite yet patronizing tone to indulge themselves in all of that anyway. “How can one live without liquor?” Says the alcoholic. There is one stipulation that he’d like them to comply with, however: ankle monitors.
Both Woong-chul and Tae-soo are offended at the idea of wearing such a demeaning accessory (which are usually reserved for sexual offenders in Korea). Tae-soo says they may be criminals, but argues that they’ve still got something called human rights: “Hate the crime, not the person.”
Goo-tak chuckles, citing that it’s the person who commits the crime. Tae-soo’s a murderer and Woong-chul has a laundry list of crimes to his name, and as such, they should gratefully accept these terms. Human rights is something they can cry for after their release into society.
And when Woong-chul grabs a fistful of his shirt, Goo-tak points out that he’s even doing them the service of speaking to them in jondae. But when Woong-chul doesn’t ease up, Goo-tak’s voice drops to a deep growl: “Don’t tear it if you can’t bite. Or else you’ll end up being bitten first and die.”
That gets Woong-chul to back off, but now our new crew has bigger things to worry about: Jung-moon has disappeared.
We see that Jung-moon’s transport had stopped for a bathroom break. Then Jung-moon had used a distracted moment to his advantage to assault the first police officer, then pinned the second officer to the wall before grabbing him in a choke hold.
After kicking the officer off of him, Jung-moon had grabbed the toilet cover and hit him across the head with it. Goo-tak initially seems to sympathize with the officer’s pains, then steps away so that Tae-soo can “treat” him, which is basically an opportunity for Tae-soo to point out the gaping flaws in the officer’s story, like the clean cut on his face and his debris-free hair.
Goo-tak returns with a plunger in hand and shoots him a menacing glare. A cop’s salary comes out of hard-working taxpayers’ pockets—how dare he give a falsified testimony?
Identifying the officer’s mouth as the problem, Goo-tak covers it with the plunger, intending to suffocate him until he fesses up. Just then, the other cop files in to recount the actual tale: only one of them was on hand to escort Jung-moon, who had eyed the bathroom stall.
But as soon as Jung-moon stepped inside, he kicked the door back open, broke off the mop’s head, and threatened the officer with the sharp end—all in quick succession. The officer’s scream had alerted his partner, whom Jung-moon had taken down before the cop could reach for his weapon. How creepy is that moment when Jung-moon opens that stall door?
That’s how Jung-moon was able to obtain the keys and walked out free, and Goo-tak says it’s up to them to find him. Woong-chul is still reluctant about working for the detectives, but Tae-soo thinks differently—unless Woong-chul plans on rotting behind bars for the rest of his life, then he’d better find Jung-moon.
And to sweeten the deal, they’re told that the man who finds their missing psychopath will get four years shaved off of his jail sentence. Woong-chul agrees, and asks if using force is fair game. Mi-young: “As long as you don’t kill.” Woong-chul: “I can’t guarantee that.” Heh.
After putting on their ankle monitors, Tae-soo graciously accepts the offer to find Jung-moon. Woong-chul hilariously throws up a thumb-up sign.
In the van, Goo-tak is certain that Jung-moon will go looking for his ex-girlfriend Yang Yoo-jin who almost became his next murder victim. Sure enough, Jung-moon is on a train heading to see Yoo-jin himself. And while Goo-tak doesn’t know where Yoo-jin is now, he does know of some people who might.
He drops Woong-chul and Tae-soo off and gives them an hour time limit to get the necessary information. Mi-young wonders how Goo-tak knows so much about Jung-moon’s casefile, thinking that he hasn’t told her the entire story.
When she doesn’t get an answer, she asks if their new recruits can be trusted. “Do you know what people need most to act like people?” he returns. “Desperation. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone as desperate as they are.”
It’s pretty funny watching how Woong-chul and Tae-soo figure out who should take the lead on giving the beatings with a curt “You? Me?” Woong-chul clears the nightclub, and there’s a moment when another Herculean-looking man twice his size stands in his way. Cut to: Hercules thrown inside like a rag doll. HA.
Then it’s off to a warehouse where another “Me? Me” exchange has Tae-soo tackle this one. This sequence is a nice showcase of their different techniques, between brute strength (Woong-chul) vs. agility and finesse (Tae-soo).
Tae-soo literally hammers down his opponents with ease, and with a flourishing flying kick, he hurls the hammer, which lands inches from the boss’s head.
All in all, Woong-chul and Tae-soo make it back with eight minutes to spare, and with the knowledge that Yoo-jin’s in Busan. And I don’t know how Jung-moon figured it out, but he’s already there and climbs into a taxi.
After obtaining Yoo-jin’s info thanks to one of Woong-chul’s contacts, Yoo-jin picks up the phone just as she’s about to answer the door. But the warning about her ex comes seconds too late, and she drops the phone in alarm to see Jung-moon on the other side.
Terrified, Yoo-jin asks how he found her. Jung-moon asks flatly, “Do you feel sorry towards me? Why?” Shaking, she asks why she should be sorry. “That’s what the detective in charge of my case told me, ‘You should be sorry to me.'”
Yoo-jin says she doesn’t feel at all sorry towards him. Doesn’t he remember he was the one who tried to kill her? To that, Jung-moon leans in and answers, “I… really have no recollection of trying to kill you.”
Meanwhile, Goo-tak and the others arrives at the apartment building where Woong-chul and Tae-soo argue once more over get who gets to capture Jung-moon. I seriously get Gimli vs. Legolas competition vibes with these two. Not that it matters because it turns out they’ve got the wrong address entirely.
Back at Yoo-jin’s place, she asks whether or not Jung-moon recalls killing his other victims then. In flashback, Jung-moon claims that he doesn’t remember killing anyone, even with the crime scene photos in front of him.
Even now, Jung-moon insists upon his innocence, but Yoo-jin counters that that’s what makes him the psychotic killer he is. She’s seen the expression on his face after he commits murder.
Yoo-jin had once found Jung-moon looming over their dead puppy; he had told her how sad he was over the animal’s death, but his menacing stare and creepy smile betrayed those words.
He had told her that the shock of seeing his parents’ deaths led to sudden memory lapses, where he was unable to remember what happened. But Yoo-jin claims that he went and killed people in those gaps of time: “You were the one who killed those people and tried to kill me. It was you, Lee Jung-moon!”
“Truthfully, weren’t you the one who killed your parents? You killed them and pretended that you couldn’t remember?” And in a chilling glimpse into Jung-moon’s mind, we see his parents lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood… and Jung-moon grasping a rock in his bloodied hand. Oh shit.
Jung-moon kneels down to say that it wasn’t him, but then he snaps and grabs Yoo-jin’s neck, choking her. Yoo-jin tells him to never forget this moment of him trying to kill her. “Fine,” Jung-moon answers, tightening his hold on her. “Let’s die together.”
Among our new foursome, Goo-tak’s the least in a hurry to go after Jung-moon. He even calls out to him loudly from the hallway as if looking for a longtime friend. Mi-young signals at him to quiet down, but Goo-tak says what’s important right now is saving that poor girl’s life.
So Goo-tak fires his gun to gain entrance into the apartment, where he casually greets Jung-moon as his “dongsaeng.” You were in charge of Jung-moon’s case, weren’t you? Nothing good will come out of killing that young woman, Goo-tak reminds him, then warns that getting shot at reaalllly hurts. So does he want a bullet in him before complying or not?
When Jung-moon doesn’t let go, Goo-tak decides to shoot. Mi-young jumps in at the last second to knock the gun away, and the bullet grazes Jung-moon’s arm. In a flash, Jung-moon hops out of the balcony, rolls into the street, and is nearly hit by an oncoming car.
After Goo-tak identifies the target to Woong-chul down below, Jung-moon steals the car for himself. Woong-chul catches up moments later and stomps on the window, but that’s only a brief distraction because Jung-moon steps on the accelerator, rolling the burly man off of the car.
Woong-chul is unharmed, though, and as for Tae-soo, he oh-so-casually steals a car and takes off. He drives past Woong-chul (who gives chase by foot) and the two cars wind through the streets and down the hill, where Tae-soo rams his car into Jung-moon’s.
Both cars spin before crashing to a halt. It seems that Jung-moon is knocked unconscious from the crash, but he stirs awake again just long enough to see Woong-chul greet him with his right hook.
I suppose this means Woong-chul has won the first round out of hopefully many more to come. Guess he’s now looking at a 24-year sentence from his original 28.
Back at the church, Goo-tak tells Jung-moon not to take the whole shot-to-the-arm thing to heart, then says he has a higher chance of survival by swimming in the flood rather than fighting it. He can hear the job details from Mi-young, and join them at the restaurant nearby if he wants in.
Mi-young takes over, and tells him that although she doesn’t know why, Goo-tak insists that they need Jung-moon’s help. So she’ll ask him once again: “Don’t you want to try living like a person?”
Over at the restaurant, Woong-chul likens Jung-moon’s balcony jump earlier to Jack and the Beansprout (which Tae-soo corrects as Beanstalk. I already love their bickering relationship). Their argument is placed on hold with Jung-moon’s arrival, having decided to join the team after all—ankle monitor and all.
After pouring drinks for his new crew members, Goo-tak tells them that the only thing he wants out of them is their dogged pursuit in chasing down the even badder guys they’ll be going after. “Do you know why crazy dogs like us are scary? Because when we bite, they die.”
Raising his glass, Goo-tak says they’ll drink tonight and find their first serial killer in the morning. They drink to that, and thus Team Crazy Dogs is born.
We rewind to the conversation at the church before our convict recruits’ arrival, when Mi-young had asked why Goo-tak agreed to take on the case and specifically chose these three men.
She had done her homework and discovered that all three criminals were incarcerated within a month of one another. Eerily enough, Goo-tak’s suspension took place one month after that, a statement that spurs a barking response out of Goo-tak.
Which explains why Mi-young keeps a curious eye on him now, as Goo-tak sends a tiny smirk towards Jung-moon.
Again, so freakin’ badass. Now I understand why the promo images show Kim Sang-joong keeping a tight rein on a pack of Rottweilers, because Goo-tak has got his own ragtag group of criminals helping him solve crimes. This episode does a fine job of giving us a proper introduction to our core characters, and by showing us just how this new gang comes together, Bad Guys also keeps the action and entertainment coming at a steady pace in the hour.
I admit that Kim Sang-joong’s name was enough to pique my interest to tune in, because watching him act onscreen is another pleasure in of itself. And let’s be honest—his badass character in Goo-tak is an added plus. I love that Goo-tak lives up to that “crazy dog” nickname of his, and his moral boundaries are so blurred that he honestly has me believing that if he didn’t have a police badge, he’d go and shred every perpetrator apart with his bare teeth. He’s tougher than the ruffians he’s brought under his wing, and the criminals know it.
Speaking of whom, I really enjoy our trio of criminal consultants already, especially in the odd-couple dynamics between Woong-chul and Tae-soo. From Woong-chul’s one-liners and Tae-soo’s straight delivery, their lighter moments (and awesome fighting sequences) inject some cheeky humor that isn’t overdone and necessary to break up some of the darker crime material. It’ll be great if the show could continue their ongoing competition about who gets the reduced jail sentence, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up counting how many thugs they took down in one fight. When it comes to these two, Tae-soo’s got the more fragmented backstory, since we don’t know what compelled him to turn himself in that day.
Still, it’s Jung-moon’s story that this show wants us to pay most attention to (for now, at least). Even if we don’t know Jung-moon’s current age, I think it’s interesting that his killing spree began a few years ago—well, interesting in the sense that his malevolent behavior became public in his adult years (the show claims the serial murders occurred in 2011-2012). We don’t know if any other psychopathic behavior existed in his early years, but we do know that his parents’ deaths instigated a noticeable change in him. So I can’t make any further claims to Jung-moon’s memory lapses until we’re given more information to work with.
Another mystery lies with Goo-tak and Jung-moon, since they already seem so familiar with one another. I can’t help but think that Goo-tak was in charge of Jung-moon’s case, and perhaps even responsible for his imprisonment, but of course, what we’ve seen here is just the tip of the iceberg. We know as much information about these guys as Mi-young does, and I’m thankful that we’ve got a strong, no-nonsense female inspector to keep these guys in line. Or keep them from killing each another.
So as long as Bad Guys keeps its focus on our newly-minted Team Crazy Dogs and the growing pains that come along with any new kind of relationship, then that should be enough to keep this show from feeling too much like a straight procedural show that solves crimes every week. Release the hunting dogs ’cause the hunt is on.