Heartwarming, powerful, Ma Dong Seok brilliance againSo disclaimer here: I'm a massive Ma Dong Seok fan. I'm a sucker for him. His acting combines the best of tough big guys, justice-centered protectors, and vulnerable sweet teddy bears with tender hearts. Basically, he is what the characters he often plays (when he's the lead especially) are... perfect protagonists you REALLY root hard for. This role is no exception.
A Korean boy adopted to the US is bullied for being the only Asian and becomes stronger, tougher, etc to protect himself. He becomes a fantastic champion athlete only to be subjected to discrimination and accused falsely of fixing matches in his sport so someone else, some rich entitled prick with paler skin, will win. The setup isn't all that unusual, but you instantly like him and can see he's truly good though a bit hopeless about his future. Jobs working security aren't the best.
Then comes the friend, the one who's like his little brother, from many years back. The friend's dad is in severe debt after being cheated and the friend needs a lot of money pretty fast to get loan sharks away. Sports gambling is all he knows. At first the lead is not totally opposed to the quick money because he'd given up hopes of any championship statuses... the friend made a 'mistake,' though, if selfishness were his only goal: he gave the address of the athlete's mom to the athlete.
So here's where movies that set up quite similarly (seems the adoptee finding biological families story is pervasive in SK or maybe I've just had more exposure to them than normal) often fall apart. The family here has, of course, ADORABLE little kids, both of whom I'd seen elsewhere and really like, and when you pair Ma Dong Seok with such tiny bodies it's bound to be either super sweet or super corny. Whew, they kept it really touching, endearing, and just good. Nothing new at all, but it is a formula that really works, one MDS can really deliver in!
I rarely rate sports related shows and films very high; they aren't really my thing. Ma Dong Seok breaks the mold for me. Usually I feel no particular affection toward athlete narratives. I don't get emotional when my nation wins Olympic gold medals. I just feel neutral at best and mostly think pro sports are a bit annoying. Not here. Maybe because it's not the Olympics but a really quirky sport (arm wrestling) or maybe because they hit all the emotional points exactly right... it really works well. I could see myself rewatching it, too. Then again, I have The Devil/Cop/Gangster in my "rewatch-worthy" folder, too, so again... it's the power of Ma Dong Seok. Winnie the Pooh has nothing on him for winning me over like that tiny tiny girl calling him uncle!
FWIW, another show that on the athlete side felt similar (the love story of the drama wouldn't be possible to fit in this short time) is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. This has no romance (but bromance is cute enough), but the athlete's story rings a similar tune.
Was this review helpful to you?