Kim Gon-woo (Joo-hwan Kim) and Hong Woo-jin(Sang-yi Lee) are boxers looking to make it to the top. But when Gon-woo’s mother runs afoul of a loan shark who tricks her into a crooked contract that will bankrupt her, the two are soon drawn into a decade-old conflict outside the law that will only end with blood and death in Bloodhounds, directed and written by Joo-hwan Kim.
Taking place during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, this eight-episode series tells a brutal tale that highlights just how far some people will go to use and abuse those around them, while also reminding how far others will go to protect them. While Gon-woo presents the series with a classic knight in white armor mentality, all those around him are not so clean-cut. With even most of the protagonists in Bloodhounds having less than clean hands, the series never fails to keep a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad. Because while many of the good guys have done bad things, this series presents viewers with a truly despicable set of villains to despise.
Led by Kim Myeong-gil(Park Sung-woong) the villains will swindle, cheat, manipulate, or if all else fails, brutalize and murder anyone who gets in their way. The utter lack of concern for their countless lives shattered makes it extremely easy to cheer when one of them gets what’s coming to them. Even more so than Myeong-gil, this is especially true for the chief enforcer of the group, Kang In-beom(Tae Won-suk, Glitch).
From his first introduction, In-beom is presented as a half-mad, nigh-unstoppable man-mountain. Easily crumpling others like paper cups, while seeming to be impervious to the damage dished out to him, In-beom takes an upsetting level of relish in every opportunity he has to display his strength. Over the course of Bloodhounds’ narrative, Gon-woo and Woo-jin find themselves at odds with the monstrous enforcer multiple times. As they clash again and again, these moments serve as an incredibly emotional measuring stick for the duo’s progress in becoming stronger fighters. By the last time they take on the once unstoppable foe, I couldn’t help but cheer as their journey to topple the Goliath came to an end.
While the villains deliver some strong personalities that demand to be loathed, the good guys in Bloodhounds have their own memorable characters. Beyond just Gon-woo providing a charming anchor for his team, we are also treated to Choi Tae-ho(Joon-ho Huh), a former loan shark that now tries to make the world better by providing those in need with interest-free loans, and his adopted grand-daughter, Cha Hyun-joo(Kim Sae-ron) who brings fire and determination to the team, both provide great secondary characters for the story to explore.
What makes Bloodhounds’ narrative stand out the most to me is how much the show demands from its protagonists before they reach the end. Brutal setbacks, tragic losses, and numerous near-fatal misses make the story as rough a narrative as any I’ve recently watched. There is no sense of plot armor or any other guarantee that any of the characters will come to a happy ending, making every victory feel all the sweeter when they actually come. The constant tension this uncertainty creates compels the viewer to continue watching more of the show, as many of the episodes end on well-timed cliffhangers.
The cinematography is also well done, especially during the show’s many large-scale fight sequences. The camera manages to capture the power and speed of its combatants excellently, especially Gon-woo and Woo-jin. As the two skilled boxers frequently face far greater numbers than they themselves have, the camera works to capture every dodge, jab, and uppercut that sends participants skidding across the ground.
While I largely enjoyed my time with Bloodhounds, there were a few extremely minor hiccups. The show plays its final act out a little too long, and one of the key characters gets abruptly written out of the narrative, leaving them no way to find a strong conclusion to their arc. Despite these small shortcomings, Bloodhounds is a great, tense action series about fighting injustice, revenge, and everyone who can become tangled up in the fight.
Bloodhounds is streaming now on Netflix.
Bloodhounds is a great, tense action series about fighting injustice, revenge, and everyone who can become tangled up in the fight.