International Dramas: Vincenzo

Screenshot of Song Joongki in ‘Vincenzo’. Copyright goes to Logos Film, Studio Dragon, and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve been trying to space out the reviews for the dramas I recently watched, but some of them were so good that it’s extremely difficult for me to do that. I just want to talk about them all as soon as possible! I think a fair few people have heard about ‘Vincenzo’ even if you haven’t actually watched it. It’s one of the biggest K-Dramas on Netflix right now and focuses on a member of the mafia. Mafia based stories have been seeing a resurgence after a while of not seeing much of them. ‘Vincenzo’ is about a Korean consigliere of the Italian mafia named Vincenzo Cassano, who returns to South Korea after his former boss dies in order to retrieve gold that is hidden under a building that Vincenzo owns. Unfortunately, by the time he gets back, his building has been occupied by some pretty insane tenants. One of them is a lawyer, who he befriends, who seeks to destroy a corrupt company. After a tragic accident, Vincenzo is thrown into the fight against the company and realizes that this company might be even more corrupt than they all originally thought. All the while he tries to keep the gold a secret from the tenants of the building. It sounds like a more complicated plot than it is, and I swear it’s done really well. Once again, I have to say this is one of my favorite dramas I’ve ever watched. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Unlike in my last reviews, this show actually has some pretty insane plot twists. Seriously consider if you want to read my in depth review before you watch it. And trust me, it’s worth the watch.

Bene:

Vincenzo- I have never been a huge fan of the romantic movie portrayal of the mafia. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everyone who has ever been a part of the mafia is evil, because that’s simply not true. Most people involved with the mafia, or related groups, are people who were born into it who didn’t have much of a choice. But I’m also not going to say that a lot of the acts that are committed in those groups aren’t evil. Because they most certainly are. Really it’s a tough situation to tackle, and most forms of entertainment don’t even cover these topics. But I will say, I am occasionally entertained by some form of mafia media. And this is one of my favorite depictions that I’ve seen. Vincenzo is a badass. There’s nothing disputing this. One of my favorite things about Vincenzo is how much you don’t realize he has control over every situation until later. There are many moments in the show where Vincenzo will tell the villain that the only reason he hasn’t killed him yet is because he’s not enough of a threat to do so. And when Vincenzo finally gets around to wanting to kill him, he describes it as a cat finally eating a mouse after it’s played around with it for a while. Even when you think someone in the show is more powerful than Vincenzo in a situation, you’re wrong. And the urgency is still there, because the show is less about protecting Vincenzo and more about protecting other people. They balance this dynamic well. Vincenzo is also a likable character, if not necessarily moral. When Chayoung asks Vincenzo if he’s ever killed anyone, Vincenzo says no. Which is a lie. And it isn’t to make her feel better, it’s because he wishes that killing was never a part of his life. Vincenzo is a character that consistently feels regret for what he does, and tries to atone by showing simple kindnesses to as many people as he can. By the end of the show he becomes a major protector of those who can’t protect themselves. But he is never a hero or portrayed to be one. This character could have gone so wrong in so many ways, but the writers managed to strike the perfect balance within his character.

Chayoung- The main female character and an amazing one at that. She is never treated differently by anyone because she’s a woman. Especially not Vincenzo. She becomes the main lawyer for the victims of Babel Group after her father dies by their hands. She previously used to work for Wusang Law Firm, who works closely with Babel Group, but changed sides to get revenge for her father. She is not your typical female lead, as she is just as vindictive as Vincenzo at times. And she’s a lot more likely to poke fun at the other side. But she’s also the heart of the group. Her main objective is never killing and she often tries to encourage Vincenzo to find other ways to deal with their situations. She can also hold her own in a fight just by sheer willpower. If Vincenzo isn’t there, she’s resident protector of everyone else and it’s a job that she doesn’t take lightly. She is the wittiest character in the entire show, and her fast dialogue is part of what made this show so entertaining for me.

The Romance- The romance between Vincenzo and Chayoung is definitely a slow burn. And I much prefer that. Because, especially in these kinds of shows, making the main male and female leads a couple can often result in the female lead feeling like nothing more than the love interest. Because they don’t even realize they have romantic feelings for each other until towards the end of the show, this is never an issue. Each character is focused on for the purpose of exploring their characters rather than romance. And when they do get together it’s really cute because it feels like it’s been such a long time coming. They make each other better people, and that’s something that really comes across even before they get together.

The Tenants- The group of people who live in the building are a much needed source of comic relief after some of the more intense moments in the show. And I love how much they care about each other and how much Vincenzo learns to care for them in turn. I especially liked Vincenzo caring for the teenagers, or how cute his relationship was with the undercover cop once he came in. Vincenzo is always there when they need him, and in turn they all learn to be there when Vincenzo needs them. The scenes with them can be extremely wholesome and a much needed break when you need one.

Jang Hanseok- The biggest plot twist in this show that I didn’t see coming. And I felt so betrayed and stupid for not seeing it. When we first meet this character, known at the time as Jang Junwoo, he’s super adorable. He’s the quirky assistant of Chayoung from when she worked at Wusang and he continues to be an informant for her after she leaves. He often speaks in English and is very happy-go-lucky. He has a huge crush on her and very obviously cares about her well-being. And then it’s revealed that he is the true CEO of Babel Group and the main villain of the entire show. And the thing is, he doesn’t suddenly become less fun to watch because he’s evil. He’s one of the few fun villains I’ve seen in dramas. I find that a lot of dramas feature the classic mustache-twirling evil villains with not much of a personality. This is not the case here. This is the type of villain who will capture your attention in every scene. Sometimes he’ll even make you laugh. And then he’ll do something so evil and vile that all you want to do is look away, but you just can’t. He also screams a lot, which I actually found funny. This is the villain I’m looking for in dramas. The one that you can’t help but like when he’s on screen even if you hate his guts. One thing I will say, is that he’s not an understandable villain. But his upbringing is more than enough reason for what you see, even if the outcome is a little out there. I don’t think you always need a super in depth backstory for your villain as long as you have other things to pull from.

Jang Hanseo- The brother of Hanseok who poses as the CEO for Babel Group. He starts out the show as a complete coward and ended the show as one of my favorite characters. At first he has no plans other than trying to keep his brother from killing him. Because his brother will most certainly kill anyone on a whim. But after he decides that he wants to run Babel Group correctly, he decides to ask Vincenzo for help. And Vincenzo initially refuses, but Hanseo uses this as an opportunity to prove himself. He deliberately protects Vincenzo on several occasions and even offers to do menial tasks, like sorting through all of Vincenzo and Chayoung’s filing. There are several times when the show tricks you into thinking that he’ll betray Vincenzo. But never take this character for granted. He’s too pure for that. And then he even asks if he can refer to Vincenzo as a brother, which is something that Vincenzo can’t deny him because it’s so clear that Hanseo wishes he actually had a healthy brotherly relationship. He gets close to Vincenzo, and you realize that this character is just a puppy. And then they kill the puppy. I am not kidding when I say I sobbed. This wasn’t just tearing up or a couple tears. I literally had a pillow clutched to my chest that I was sobbing into. And he goes out by proving that he’s not the coward that he was. He gives up his life for Vincenzo in the ultimate selfless move and I will never get over this. I loved him. I wish he hadn’t died, but his death proved to the audience just how precious this character is. I still wish he hadn’t died and will forever be crying over this.

Seo Miri- The ghostly piano teacher and a tenant of Vincenzo’s building. Unlike the other tenants, she has a bigger part to play in the over-all story. It’s revealed that she is a major hacker and one of the people who was involved with placing the gold under the building to begin with. She becomes more and more involved with schemes as the show goes on. And I’m always game for suddenly revealing that the woman standing in the back has always been the smartest person in the room. I love her.

Inzhagi- I just really liked the fact that Vincenzo essentially had a pet pigeon by the end of this. It was such a weird but cute plot point that actually added some character development to Vincenzo.

Cattiva:

Wusang Law Firm- Both the major characters in Wusang Law Firm were not ones I could ever get behind. Myunghee is the second major villain, and I loved the fact that there was a female villain in this show. But none of the villains, other than Hanseok, are given much in the way of fun character points or backstory. You learn pretty early on that Myunghee resents being told what to do and resents men in power. But she ends up working for one and this is never touched on again. She becomes pretty loyal and nothing more. And then sometimes she screams people down or feels like she’s smart in a situation where she isn’t really, which can get annoying. She’s supposed to be a mind that can combat Vincenzo, but she isn’t. She was never threatening to me or interesting and I wish that hadn’t been the case. And then you have Seunghyuk who is the CEO of Wusang and just a dumb coward. I think the show would have worked just as well with Myunghee being the CEO of Wusang and this character not existing. I know they wanted to show a despicable coward, but so many of the villains had cowardice moments that he often felt like a waste of screen time.

The Tenants- Though I liked seeing the tenants sometimes, I think they might have gotten slightly too much screen time. Especially because the screen time that they did get focused a lot more on being comedic than it focused on actual character development. I never really felt close to any of the characters, I only felt connected to how these characters benefited Vincenzo’s character development. There’s a moment where the show tricks the audience into thinking one of the tenants dies. And, don’t get me wrong, I liked his character. But I didn’t feel connected enough to him to really feel it when it happened. Or maybe that was because that was after Hanseo died and I had cried myself out by then. Because that’s also a possibility. Nevertheless, the tenants are nothing but the clowns in the circus. They’re funny, but they aren’t what you’re here to see. I would have liked the show to spend a bit more of this screen time on other characters or at least trying to develop some of the tenants more.

The Gold- The gold didn’t feel like it had much over-all plot relevance. In the end it was just a plot device that they occasionally had to address because this was what tied Vincenzo to the story. And I think something so important should have been better woven into the main storyline. I would have liked if the villains had some agenda regarding the gold. It probably would have tied in better if they had. But because they didn’t, whenever the show addressed the gold it felt like the show was pulling away from the main story. And considering that the gold was such a major plot device, it was weird that it didn’t connect to more stuff anyways. Vincenzo didn’t even really need the gold for anything. The story would have been so much more concise if there was more of a purpose for that gold.

The Birds- I liked Inzhagi. Don’t get me wrong. But the entire scene where pigeons saved Vincenzo from those Italian mafia guys was a bit ridiculous. I think it was a step too far.

And that’s it! Obviously, I had more compliments for this show than criticisms. Even though most of my criticisms were pretty large all things considered, in the end it didn’t take away from what I liked most about this show. It’s a show with a good amount of action that never gets too serious or bloody. And as someone who does not like anything near horror, this was something that I could easily watch and appreciate. But it’s not soft enough that kids could watch it. Please don’t think this means this is for families. There’s still a lot of violence in this show. But the show has a good balance, some great characters, and more than enough to keep you entertained. This show is popular for a reason and I highly recommend it!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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