Set in a dystopian version of present-day Korea where daily life is chaos and society has collapsed to the point that people openly voice their distrust and hatred for their leaders. In this world bereft of law and order, Head Trial Judge Kang signals the need for change. His courtroom is the subject of a reality show where he mercilessly punishes the guilty, earning him the "Devil Judge" nickname. As a divisive figure with an aura of mystery that belies his true identity and ambitions, the public is unsure whether he is a true hero or someone, knowingly sowing the seeds of discontent in his courtroom. A bitter rivalry has taken shape between the "Devil Judge" and the highly ambitious Jung Sun Ah, who has risen from poverty to become a corporate social responsibility foundation director. Into this turbulent world enter two childhood friends on a quest for true justice: rookie Judge Kim Ga On and Police Officer Yoon Soo Hyun. Do they have what it takes to challenge both the scheming Jung Sun Ah and the notorious "Devil Judge"? (Source: Viki, Wikipedia, Soompi) Edit Translation
Cast & Credits
The devil is in the detailsThe Devil Judge is conceptual, surreal, provocative and very much character-driven by one man, Ji Sung as Kang Yo Han, the eponymous main character of this drama.
Based on only the second screenplay ever written thus far by Moon Yoo Seok, a former judge himself, who created the well-received Miss Hammurabi in 2018. This time he presents viewers with an imagined version of the judiciary operating within a dystopian setting. In particular, the concept of a “live court” where trials are streamed in real-time and the verdicts are decided by the general public via online voting. This premise revolves around the titular devil judge who presides over this unconventional justice system.
What I enjoyed about this drama
The technical execution is top notch. Direction, editing, cinematography, cinematic visuals and special effects are all very good. The absence of awkward scene transitions or inconsistent camerawork and sound mixing throughout makes for very pleasant viewing indeed, from an audiovisual standpoint.
The high production values reflected in the overall production quality, set designs, shooting locales and costuming are very impressive. From the grandeur of high society events and soirées, the opulent mansions, luxury cars to the uniquely futuristic setting of the supreme court, along with its distinctively cultish ceremonial attires.
The tale of one man’s vengeance by taking the road less travelled that reads like a contemporary and twisted version of the Count of Monte Cristo. The approach falls into the category of cutting-edge dramas that pushes the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Or at least it makes a decent attempt to do so. It is a fusion of psychological thriller, legal drama and mystery that are interwoven with themes of revenge, love and betrayal, as well as elements of politics and corruption. For the most part, the combination of the myriad aspects has been seamlessly integrated into the narrative which induces considerable thought-provoking debates, certainly among viewers, on matters pertaining to morality and justice.
Most of the main and supporting characters are intriguingly written and superbly rendered. No one is purely black or white, and almost everyone is shrouded in grey mist. Where allegiances lie and what motives prevail are constantly being second guessed. Over the course of the entire drama, viewers slowly peel layers upon layers of these multi-dimensional and sometimes larger than life personas.
This is very much the case with Kang Yo Han, the titular character and main protagonist... or is it antagonist? Perhaps somewhere in between, no one can really say for sure because this is one personality that’s open to diverse interpretations, depending on where your moral compass’ true north is set. In a recent interview, Moon Yoo Seok had intimated that having written a good and just main character in Miss Hammurabi, he was inclined to explore a character that is the total opposite and who operates within a contrasting environment, in this case a failed state and corrupted judiciary.
This in-depth character study into the so-called devil judge, is made even more compelling by the excellent portrayal. I’m well aware of Ji Sung’s talents and accolades in the industry, there’s no question what an experienced and fantastic actor he is. But still I was taken aback. His embodiment of the role is utterly immersive, inspiring and captivating, for he truly possesses the gravitas, screen presence and versatility to succeed in this powerful characterization.
Aside from KYH, Jung Sun Ah is a character that mystifies the most alongside a complex story arc of her own that is no less fascinating. She comes across as charming, disturbing, manipulative and opportunistic. In reality, she is a psychopathic and surrealistic dominatrix as well as a complete femme fatale. Played by the prolific Kim Min Jung who injects, in no small measure, a nuanced passive-aggressive vibe into the profile. Some may argue that the character is one-dimensional with ambiguous motivations, but it’s quite fitting that she and KYH share a kind of dysfunctional chemistry and power dynamics that make them the perfect adversarial / love-hate pairing from hell.
Among the supporting characters, Heo Jung Se, the President, catches the eye as the most OTT yet amusingly so at the same time. Baek Hyun Jin is essentially reprising his performance in Taxi Driver with the exact same portrayal. Ahn Nae Sang has been seen in many dramas of late and here he plays the Chief Justice, Min Jung Ho. It is a measure of his experience that he manages to infuse the character with sufficient misplaced idealism and self-righteousness that infuriates most, if not all, viewers. Deftly portrayed with understated conviction and believability indeed. Jang Young Nam as the stoic Minister of Justice, Cha Kyung Hee delivers a commendable depiction where she projects the aura of an iron lady to perfection. The wheelchair-bound Kang Elijah, portrayed by Jeon Chae Eun, is another that's deserving of praise. For someone so young, she showcases such range beyond her years, especially in the last two episodes.
There are a total of 4 OSTs in the soundtrack, of which two resonate with me the most. The poignant classical instrumental piece, Enemy of Truth, and Tempest, the alluringly intoxicating pop-rock fusion. If ever there was a song that fully encapsulates the characteristics of the devil judge himself, it would be this track along with its distinctive guitar riffs and accompanying MV. Additionally the BGM, comprising delicate piano pieces, further elevates introspective moments throughout. Credit must go to the music director, Jung Se Rin for the impressive original score.
허클베리핀 Huckleberry Finn – Tempest
정세린 Jung Se Rin - Enemy Of Truth (진실의 적)
Sondia – Nightmare (악몽)
Zeenan – What You Gonna Do
What I didn't enjoy as much
Issues with the plot development. Despite a really promising start along with numerous twists and turns as well as cliffhanger endings in almost every episode, somewhere towards the tail end of the second half, the story begins to feel repetitive and static. It was a case of one step forward and two steps backwards in a kind of time loop where certain characters repeatedly play out the same scenes time and again. I’m really referring to Kim Ga On and Yoon Soo Hyun here. Overdosed with a crisis of conscience, these two are either constantly disputing KYH or doubting themselves and even each other. The initial intrigue from their mind games and relationship dynamics eventually devolves into a rather superfluous recurring pattern. The presence of a considerably pivotal event in a later episode renders a particular character as nothing more than a mere plot device for the final arc.
If I’m being totally honest, the characters Kim Ga On and Yoon Soo Hyun do feel quite inconsistently written. The lack of profound evolution or at least palpable growth in either character who continuously exasperates with their appalling nonsensical decision making that contributes absolutely nothing tangible or substantial to the overall storyline, other than to recycle dramatic angst that detract from the more compelling direction of the drama. Park Jin Young, who plays Kim Ga On, isn’t the most convincing supreme court judge. He looks fresh out of college and somewhat lacking in life experience. Perhaps his role was intentionally written to be such, to instigate an emotional reaction from viewers and to set up the climactic end, which he does so competently. He does possess much potential, if only his character had been written with more depth.
Likewise Park Gyu Young, who elicits a similar response to her interpretation of police detective Yoon Soo Hyun. She spends most of the time pointing her service revolver at nearly everyone and jumping head on into situations that are beyond her control, oftentimes irrationally and without adhering to procedural protocols i.e. calling for back-up. I do think she’s a promising actress, having previously seen her in Sweet Home. Perhaps she would fare better with a more suitably written role in the future.
Although the nature of dystopia being depicted is supposedly totalitarian instead of post-apocalyptic, scenes of great injustice or suffering aren’t particularly apparent and not in abundance anyway. Apart from an isolated slum neighbourhood in the outskirts where small scale skirmishes break out and montages of public protests interspersed among certain episodes, the atmosphere very much looks like present-day Seoul. This gives rise to a feeling of disconnect between the purported setting and the featured visuals.
All things considered, despite the misgivings that I have, The Devil Judge remains a compelling production worthy of viewing for its innovative concept, truly exceptional performances by its main leads and no holds barred storytelling. The final point worth mentioning is that the drama does eventually make good on most of the issues I have to redeem itself and ultimately end on a hugely satisfying note.
Banjak banjak devil's everywhere, trust no oneFrom the very beginning of episode one, you feel as though you’ve been thrust into a whole new world.
The first few eps are great, but the second half is particularly thrilling and what really made the show for me. I grew more intrigued and got totally sucked in, becoming utterly invested in the storyline and the characters - who all have complex personalities and nothing really seems as it's shown. It's intense and a bit overwhelming at times, but I loved every second of it. Episode one is only the tip of the iceberg, the more you watch, the more interesting it gets.
Although I haven't fully ventured into legal dramas, 90% of the time, I drop them, as courtroom scenes, in particular, bore me to the core! But there's something gripping about TDJ that other dramas haven't seemed to achieve (for me). It's not repetitive and the lead up to a courtroom scene as well as the scene itself, although unrealistic, are very entertaining. If the thought of a courtroom scene puts you off from watching this, don't worry, there aren't too many, and practically none in the second half.
We follow Kang Yo Han, a judge, who is well loved by the public. He's a mystery at first, and so are all the other characters, but I rooted for him and his crew the whole way through!
The plot gets a bit messy and somewhat rushed in the second half, but that personally didn't bother me too much.
• The acting, it's very impressive! Of course it is since Ji sung and Kim Min Jung are in it, they're veterans. But Jinyoung's was good too considering his time as an actor and the fact that this genre is new to him, even though I found it a bit difficult to distinguish his confused face, thinking face, and angry face in the early eps, he did a great job at portraying his character and I was moved by every emotional scene he played in.
• The chemistry between Kang Yo Han and Kim Ga On (as well as Elijah) is too good, their bond just kept growing and it was nice to watch. And not to mention, how strong the other main characters are, both physically and in personality.
• Cinematography and overall production value. A big round of applause for that!! I was at a loss of words during some scenes.
• The OST, it's so fitting and on point. And when listening to the songs on their own, you feel immersed in the world and feel as if you're a powerful character in it. ^^ The violin in Enemy Of Truth never fails to give me goosebumps and the last 20 seconds of Mirror City... DAMN. Hands down one of my favourite OST's out there!
• Not very binge worthy. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I were to binge the drama, I think it's better to watch it slowly, but that's just my personal opinion.
• Some characters are a waste of space and aren't really needed :( Soo Hyun, in particular, probably should've been casted as a supporting character rather than a main, considering the amount of screen time she had and her purpose in the show. But nevertheless, she and Ga On had a sweet relationship and I enjoyed watching them together.
• There were some minor plot holes/issues, but they didn't really have a major impact on the drama.
If you're a fan of dark mature dramas with grey heroes neither good nor evil (and some bromance) as well as being someone that likes theorising a lot, I'm sure you'll find yourself enjoying this!
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