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Bloodhounds - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2023

Number of Episodes: 8
Action, Thriller, Drama

Kim Joo-hwan

Woo Do-hwan
Lee Sang-yi
Park Sung-woong
Jung Da-eun
Jo Wan-ki
Lee Hae-young
Yoon Yoo-sun
Choi Young-joon

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Bloodhounds - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Kim Geon-woo (Woo Do-hwan) is good-natured, sometimes a little naïve, but with his controlled manner he is also doing well in the boxing ring. That's why he wins the final against the somewhat loud and self-confident Hong Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yi). The two boxers then meet for dinner and get along very well. When Woo-jin finds out that Geon-woo was in the navy just like him, a strong friendship starts to develop between the two. Because of Covid, however, the café of Geon-woo's mother does not do well, and she had to borrow money from relatives. Geon-woo wants his mother to repay her debt with the prize money of the boxing tournament. But the trustful mother transferred her debts to a credit company, which supposedly offered low interest rates. Smile Capital, however, is a front company of the gangster boss Kim Myeong-gil (Park Sung-woong) who wants to take away the property from homeowners in the neighborhood. To do this, he made them sign credit agreements whose fine prints reveal that the interest becomes due very quickly. Since Geon-woo's mother cannot pay the enormous interest, he wants to make an example of her and plans to destroy her café. Geon-woo comes home just in time to prevent worse from happening, but he also gets injured during the fight. Together with his friend Woo-jin, he is now looking for a way to quickly make some money. So, it's pretty convenient that Choi (Huh Joon-ho), who has a history with Myeong-gil, is looking for a bodyguard for his foster daughter Oh Da-min (Jung Da-eun) at the moment. The two boxers are then slowly sucked deeper and deeper into a dark world of blood and greed.

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Review: "Bloodhounds" is a series with a lot of potential and it often enough manages to do it justice. First of all, the action that we get to see on this Netflix show can even keep up with some elaborate productions for the big screen. But there is also an intricate story about gangsters, blackmailing and friendship. Even though the story doesn't develop the epic scope that would have been possible, the series would certainly rank among the best if it were a gangster flick. In addition to the outstanding action, it is especially the buddy factor between the two boxers that makes the series so successful. You never question why the two could become best friends so quickly, because the chemistry between them just works. Of course, that also means it is a pity that the focus of "Bloodhounds" is not consistently on them. A few other minor problems also arise over time.

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The first episode most certainly offers everything you need to captivate the viewer right away. The two main characters are lovable, the villains are successfully introduced as opposing parties, and there is a terrific action scene at the end. A small cliffhanger also stimulates your imagination about the direction the series might go into. There might be a bit of disappointment here, though, because even though "Bloodhounds" provides a great opportunity to show how Geon-woo transforms from a naïve, friendly boy to an embittered street fighter who only seeks revenge, it's not a spoiler if I reveal at this point that this is not the case. Geon-woo manages to stay true to his nature. But that doesn't mean that he wouldn't dish it out in fights. And by dish it out, I mean really dish it out. Above all, the action is so satisfying because you think you can actually feel every punch.

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And that's because of the extremely well-chosen sound effects. The main reason, is the outstanding choreography, though. It's extremely impressive watching Geon-woo bob and weave, defending himself against a whole group of gangsters dodging punches only to then move back into the group of enemies skillfully dealing out blows himself. Even if movies such as "The Roundup" may already have blown you away with powerful boxing, this show here will impress with some clean techniques and a fantastic rhythm added to the mix while the fights also feel extremely realistic at all times. The first fight at the end of the first episode is jaw-dropping and you are eagerly waiting for a continuation of the great action, but unfortunately, you have to wait until the fourth episode for that. It's obvious that the action is not necessarily evenly distributed over the series and that "Bloodhounds" is therefore clearly produced for Netflix, which means you shouldn't expect a standard television structure. This artistic freedom also causes some problems soon.

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Because the focus eventually shifts from the two boxers - played by Woo Do-hwan ("The Divine Fury") and Lee Sang-yi, who bring great chemistry to the screen and always manage to portray the friendship between their characters in a believable way - to the gangsters. Astonishingly, the series works pretty well on this level too. Not least because of Huh Joon-ho ("Default") as Mr. Choi and Park Sung-woong ("For the Emperor") as the ruthless gangster boss. Even though the characters generally could have been a bit more three-dimensional, the two veterans manage to create interest in the entanglements of the gangster world thanks to some flashbacks. The story has some twists and turns, but it doesn't get unnecessarily complicated, and the goals are mostly clearly defined. A few episodes even offer elements, like a mission/run being carried out, that make you feel like you are watching a spy movie, and those episodes have their very own style and are pretty memorable.

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It is also nice how the Covid pandemic is used in the story. There is never any direct criticism, but it still becomes clear that the government's measures are the reason why the gangsters have it so easy taking away the last belongings of desperate shopkeepers. Other scenes could never have worked the way they did without the pandemic either (for example, there is a lack of blood during an operation), and that is what gives the otherwise well-written but also well-known gangster story a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the last two episodes are promising at first, but don't lead to the fantastic finale you might have expected. This is really frustrating, as the action is the real highlight of "Bloodhounds". The story is gripping, people's fates can turn out surprisingly merciless and bloody, but the changing focus is a problem (Da-min even disappears completely at a certain point). On top of that, it would have been nice to see more of the two main characters' bromance (at least there are some cool training sequences towards the end). "Bloodhounds" is a very well-done series with some breathtaking action. However, it doesn't tap its full potential, and so you are left with a little bit of a bad aftertaste.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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