Title : Punch
No. of Episodes : 19
Airing time : Dec 2014 - Feb 2015 (SBS)
Starring : Kim Rae Won, Kim Ah Jong, Cho Jae Hyun
When it comes to Punch, it is easy to overlook and gloss it over for another title while searching for something to watch on your weekend. Look at the premise. It's about a ruthless prosecutor who does everything against the law. Only when he is diagnosed to have a brain tumor with six months to live that he starts to fight for the system and try to redeem himself. You can imagine by reading it, the show will be full of corruption, governmental dirty deals, prosecutor in action and all other snooze-fest legal stuff you can expect in such drama.
I usually choose drama based on the current mood. The last thing I watched is Twenty Again and I have a really hard time to move on. So I decided to watch something more serious because my heart isn't ready to give up that top seat for rom-com to another drama yet. That's why I choose Punch with its murky political story. That, and the fact that my watch list is piling up.
As Indonesian citizen, it's totally normal to be jaded when talking about political state and government condition. The trust for political figure is low and corruption case is displayed on our news outlets even more often than those gossip stuff about celebrities' marriage and divorce cases. I guess this is another reason why Punch is appealing to me. It's difficult to know the truth when it comes to the real world. Even if the truth is revealed, the is no guarantee that justice will prevail. That's why I like the idea of watching Punch because even though it's fictional, at least it gives the assurance that we all have to pay the price for wrong things we have done; that we are the same in the face of law.
I watch Punch knowing beforehand how great it is from the rave good reviews and comments through various sites. It's only natural that my expectation is getting higher. But surprisingly, it really exceeds my expectation. I swear to you, that surely doesn't happen a lot.
The writing surely does wonder. It is easy to get tired over watching heavy repetitive backstabbing political intrigues for the whole 19 episodes. Personally, I love it. The story not only focus on how the political stuff unfold, it also allows the characters to grow with it. The corruption stuff is exhausting, I admit. But i have seen stuff like that in real life so it doesn't come as surprise anymore, although I do curse a lot. Ha. What hooks me is the way the writer makes all the main characters gray. There is no hero or antihero. There is no good or bad person. Everyone is bad and good. We know that corruption is wrong and backstabbing is no-no. But still everyone does something (mostly bad) for a reason, whatever that is. It is also fascinating to see how they evolve throughout the course of this drama.
In the early episodes we have Yoon Ji Sook the Minister of Justice who seems to be (obviously) pro-justice, Shin Ha Kyung who is a goody two shoes prosecutor, and her good friend Lee Ho Sung who seems as straight as needle. Later on these seemingly good people start to do bad things. The thing is, the writer ensures to lay off all the motive and reason that even though they do bad things, we still understand them as a character.
When it comes to the bad persons (the dirty politician), I can confidently say that this drama probably has one of the best antagonist ever. I loathe their action and bottomless greedy self that they are, but they are also so well-layered and such a round character that draws your sympathy. Lee Tae Joon is such a delicious baddie that we can't help but curse and love at the same time. It's crazy, really. And I don't know which one is worse, how they do bad things but still able to protect their family at all cost and sharing cute brotherhood with former employee slash current enemy, or the fact that they do it so naturally like they don't even feel guilty for doing bad things in daily basis.
Then we have our main character, Park Jung Hwan. How I despise you yet I cry over you for so many times. While reading the premise I am curious on how the writer will convince me to like such character when he sounds like a terrible human being. Three episodes in and I already stamped him with huge despicable sign. Later on I expect that he will get some sort of sudden enlightenment because of the brain tumor which lead him to try redeem all his previous sin. We all know he is not evil from the start based on the flash back. However, it doesn't seem right to magically turn him to the right side when he is currently drowning too deep in the murky politic dealings.
But slowly the drama shows his other side very naturally while still keep his brilliant, ruthless, daring, dirty side he was doing for the past 7 years. He is not magically turned to the good side, but he evolved. In the end, I come to respect his character even more. He is, first and foremost, a very passionate person. He shows devotion for things he feels valuable, whether it is the right or wrong side. That's why he stays beside Lee Tae Joon for years. But that's also why he chooses to fight against the dirty world once he feels his family is threatened. It's so fascinating to watch him dance, especially because he is so smart and always two steps ahead of his enemy.
Solid plot will be useless if the acting is not good. And i assure you, the whole ensemble of actors here are very capable in acting department. After few years watching Kdrama, I am better at recognizing people. In this drama, even the supporting characters and cameos are all good and respective actors. Everyone is just so good. Kim Rae Won (who plays Park Jung Hwan) is such a surprise because I have never heard or seen him before. But boy he blew me away. Kim Ah Jong who plays his wife, Shin Ha Kyung is also fantastic. Also the villain are all amazing.
It's a sin for talking about Punch and not mentioning Kim Ji Young who plays Park Yerin, Junghwan's daughter. Being a good actor in your 30s is good but being a good actor who is still 7 years old surrounded by seniors with heavy and serious story line is amazing. She is so so sooooo good with her wide range of emotion. Her scene with either her mother or father always successfully makes me all a teary mess. I can't believe she doesn't get more awards because she totally deserves it.
The thing about Punch, beside being the obviously stellar in everything (writing, directing, acting, you name it), it is also at most, heartwarming and thought provoking. How the characters are so well-layered and continue to change and grow throughout the drama is such a delight to watch. The relationship in this drama, be it family, friends are all endearing and tear-inducing. Even the romance (or lack there of, considering they are too busy catching bad guys rather than re-connecting their past love) is done beautifully. Jung Hwan and Ha Kyung although clearly still care for each other, they stand by their principle, whatever twisted they are. And then again, family interaction in this drama is really the heart of this drama. Whether you are a good stand-by-justice prosecutor or corrupt politician, you all will be ready to do anything to protect your family.
Of course this is not perfect. I am still butthurt over the fact that Lee Ho Sung is becoming a stupid follower who does terrible things even for his friends for the greater good (pfft!!). Also the medical stuff is not making any sense sometimes. Junghwan is able to stand and walk right after brain surgery, what? Grey's Anatomy may not be the best medical drama there is but even I can pick up from them the fact that brain surgery is not simple procedures. Not to forget that some legal stuffs is proceed in super fast speed while normally it takes weeks and months, I bet law student will cringe over this haha. But all the good stuffs outweigh the cringy stuff. It doesn't really tarnish how enjoyable and good this drama is.
The journey of revealing the dirty governmental dealings is not a fun ride but it makes me reflect so much about our real life condition. Following this show can be depressing and frustrating almost in every episode. But we all know stuff like this happens for real in many country, affecting real people around us. That's why it is satisfying to follow this until the end, because in fictional world, the good will usually triumph the bad. I do wish that this show's main message do not only exist in dramaland but can transcend to my country as well; that we all are the same in the face of law and should pay the price for whatever bad deeds we have done. A girl can hope, right?
This drama is certainly not for everyone. But if you appreciate a tight writing with stellar acting and cohesive, gripping story, this is for you. The journey is murky and bloody but at the end of the dark tunnel, you will find yourself smiling for its heartwarming scene and positive spirit it conveys. No regret binge-watching this show for straight 4 days although I do find my eyes sore and tired
for crying too much.
As HeadsNo2 said in dramabeans review,
"It's over and it's never coming back. My soul, like a drama landscape without Punch, is a barren wasteland of death and despair"
Rating 5 out of 5.
Can't i give more stars? :(