Content Warning: My Name includes a scene involving rape
My Name is a vengeance-thriller K-Drama on Netflix starring Han So-Hee. When Yoo Ji Woo witnesses her father’s murder, she is forced to turn to the drug lord he worked for in order to get revenge. When she is told it was a cop who pulled the trigger, Ji Woo infiltrates the local narcotics division to solve the mystery of who murdered her dad.
It is said that violence begets nothing but violence. That the pursuit of concepts like vengeance accomplishes nothing but the perpetuation of the violence that began the cycle in the first place. That even the catharsis that is always hoped for through the act of revenge is rarely if ever, found. Yet it seems some are doomed to seek out this means of emotional expression, despite all the obvious flaws in the logic that leads an individual there. But, when it seems like no other options are available, people will always walk the paths that needs drive them to.
My Name‘s opening does everything that it needs to do perfectly. The viewer’s introduction to Yoo Ji Woo(So-Hee) and the life she has had to face instantly makes the character sympathetic in every way. The frequent absence of her father and the way those at her school treat her due to her father’s criminal connections show how constant of a struggle her life has been.
When she gets a phone call from her dad on her birthday, she lashes out at him for the life he has made her endure. Feeling shame over her pain and loneliness, her father shows up at their apartment to surprise her. Unfortunately, an unknown assailant descends on him just outside the front door and kills him. Left powerless to intervene, all Ji Woo can do is call out to her father as his body blocks the door, keeping her out of the altercation.
The regret over her final discussion with him, coupled with her father’s final act to protect her from the world he lived in, spurs Ji Woo to demand justice for him. But when the police prove to be of little help, she soon decides to take matters into her own hands. When her father’s old business associates turn up at his funeral, she turns to them for the aid she requires. Her father’s old boss, Choi Mujin, proves willing to deliver her this aid. Although, as with all such things, it comes with a price.
Mujin informs Ji Woo that her father was slain by a police officer. To unravel the mystery of who it was that fired the gun that fateful night, Mujin will help Ji Woo infiltrate the police with a new identity. But in return, she must help him evade the police’s many investigations into his illegal activities.
From this opening setup, My Name delivers Ji Woo’s quest for vengeance with a tale soaked in blood, tears, and compromised morals. While there is a mostly clear line drawn between who the good guys and bad guys are supposed to be, there are times when the series makes it hard to see anyone in a good light. This is largely due to the way the series handles Ji Woo’s fellow police officers.
As is often the case with such fictional programs, My Name‘s portrayal of the police is one of the individuals on an uncompromising pursuit of justice. If this means doing things that aren’t entirely above board, well, the only people they are hurting are bad guys right? Everything from illegal search and seizure, breaking and entering, right up to full-blown assault is done repeatedly by the officers of this program without even so much as an eye being batted at it. The show treats these officers as simply passionate people with a job to do. The fact that the rules that restrain officers from doing these sorts of things exist for a reason is never brought up. Nor does a single disciplinary action get threatened against anyone for their abuses of powers.
While the actions of the cast are often inexcusable, My Name does do a good job of at least cementing the motivations of its cast. Beyond Ji Woo, everyone involved feels like a living breathing character who is as complicated as people really are. This helps the show survive its shortcomings, though not completely.
While most of the tale’s twists and turns come at a great pace and in a manner that builds plenty of tension, there are few stumbles as the series heads for its conclusion. I can’t say what without giving away spoilers, but there are a couple of moments where, once all the truths start coming out, some characters seem a bit too willing to act in ways that feel counterintuitive to their personalities, but allow the show to deliver some key moments one expects to take place in such a series.
One area that I feel My Name certainly succeeds in is its cinematography. The show delivers some great visual moments, and how it frames and captures its fight sequences is impressive. The camera never shies away from the raw nature of the show’s violence, using it to force the viewer to understand the weight and consequences that the various characters face as they try to survive the dangers their world surrounds them with.
Further selling the weight that the show’s events bear on the characters is a set of strong performances from the cast. Ji Woo leads the way by capturing her character’s delicate balance of determination and internal conflict. As the series progresses, you can see the pain she bears mount up, but the sense that this is all she is now compels her forward.
When all is said and done, My Name delivers a tense thriller that, despite its shortcoming, manages to get the viewer to invest in its believable cast of characters as the complex web surrounding a father’s murder comes undone.
My Name is streaming on Netflix.
- Rating - 7.5/107.5/10
My Name delivers a tense thriller that, despite its shortcoming, manages to get the viewer to invest in its believable cast of characters as the complex web surrounding a father’s murder comes undone