Sunday, May 2, 2021

Netflix: Review of VINCENZO: Cool Compassionate Consigliere

May 2, 2021

Vicenzo Cassano (Song Joong-ki) was an orphaned child from Korea adopted by the Cassano Mafia family in Italy. He grew up to be their family lawyer and consigliere. After his Italian father was assassinated in his mansion and the leadership of the family shaken up, Vicenzo decided to fly back home to Korea to settle a matter about gold bars hidden in Geumga Plaza in Seoul. Upon his arrival, he immediately caught everyone's attention with his striking good looks, tailored suits, luxury watches, flashy cars and the golden lighter he flicked to make decisions. 

Geumga Plaza was home to the Jipuragi Law Firm, whose CEO was the honest lawyer Hong Yoo-chan (Yoo Jae-myung). He was in conflict with his daughter Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been) who is also a lawyer, but working for the high-profile Wusang Law Firm, who was defending the controversial Babel Group, a multi-million corporation involved in various questionable business ventures, under the new leadership of dim-witted Jang Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon), and later his ruthless elder brother Jang Han-seok (Ok Taec-yeon).

The cruel Jang Han-seok had a cadre of corrupt lawyers who carried out his evil orders. The noxiously crafty Choi Myung-hee (Kim Yeo-jin) was Jang's chief corporate fixer, unyielding in her loyalty to her boss even when her life was under threat. The head attorney of Wusang Law firm Han Seung-hyuk (Cho Han-cheul) was sneakier in his allegiances and creative with his connections. Jung In-kuk (Ko Sang-ho) was an ambitious prosecutor who did not care about the messed-up ethics of what he did, as long as his career advanced. 

Aside from its manager Mr. Cho (Choi Young-joon), there were several other tenants in Guemga Plaza who ran different businesses. They were Lee Chul-wuk (CLOY's Yang Kyung-won) in the pawnshop, Toto (Kim Hyung-mook) in the Italian restaurant, Ms. Kwak (Lee Hang-na) in the snack bar, Mr. Tak (Choi Deok-moon) in the laundry shop, Larry (Kim Seol-jin) in the dance studio, Seo Mi-ri (Kim Yoon-hye) in the piano school, and monks Jeokha (Ri Woo-jin) and Chaesin (Kwon Seung-woo) whose temple held the secret entrance to the gold.

The first episode opened with an elaborate action scene set in the vast Italian estate of the Cassano family, promising that this series will be different from the usual K-drama. Soon after that spectacular start, the setting of the story was then transferred to Seoul, where the schizophrenic nature of this series was immediately evident. Hand in hand with all the seriously stylish Mafia violence and legal machinations, there would also be lowbrow comedy of the noisy, physical and slapstick kind. 

Honestly, this jarring shift in tone in that first episode made me question whether I want to go on watching or not. However, upon giving the next few episodes a try, all the double-dealing legal shenanigans aspect won me over. The annoying comedy gags of the Guemga Plaza people eventually got easier to take the more you knew them and what they can do to help. A good percentage of the foolish comedy were care of wimpy paralegal Nam Joo-sung (Yoon Byung-hee) and undercover agent Ahn Gi-seok (Im Chul-soo).

Vincenzo rallied against the Babel Group as a vigilante, using Mafia-style schemes to carry out his missions. His schemes can be complicated ruses to subvert Babel's bank (Episode 8) and newspaper (Episode 15), or insidious ones using the notorious Guillotine file. For me, Vincenzo's elaborate revenge scenarios hit a high in Episode 13, with a sensational ending scene of a character humiliated in public with a pail of pig's blood. A close second in extravagance was a scene in Episode 17 where a victory party turned nasty when greedy public officials were made to grovel on their knees. 

The dramatic peak of the whole series was Episode 16, which focused on a special day when Vincenzo brought his birth mother Oh Gyeong-ja (Yoon Bok-in) out of her hospital to spend time together taking formal photographs and strolling in the park. The emotional ride crescendoed up to a chilling scene of heartlessness, which then resulted to a solo bloody rampage by Vincenzo right into enemy territory, which racked up a massive killcount. He could have ended it all right there, but for him, death would be a fate too kind for them.

Song-joong-ki pulled off the flawed title role of Vincenzo with his effortless class that made his acts of violence look elegant, even if he had those silly scenes of him and his pigeon, Inzhagi. Jeon Yeo-been's first scene as Cha-young was grating with all her loud noisy chattering, but she was much better in her drama scenes later on. With his impish looks, Ok Taec-yeon never became completely credible as crazed megalomaniac villain Jang Han-seok, but radiate danger he did. Kim Yeo-ji was positively hateful as the cold and calculating Choi Myung-hee, that you will relish all those times when she was hysterical with fear. 

After Episode 16, the series took a break for one weekend before resuming, throwing off momentum of the series for me. Everything after that break felt rather anti-climactic already, and just prolonging the inevitable. Anyhow, there were still some cause for excitement in these concluding episodes with the involvement of Interpol agents, Vincenzo's PA from Italy and a presidential candidate to drive the stakes up higher. Characters died in Episode 20, expectedly and unexpectedly, by quick means or grisly barbaric. Of course, all loose ends were wrapped up satisfactorily by the end, with some nice surprises to boot. 8/10. 

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