I haven’t cried this much during a kdrama since Autumn in My Heart. Not during City Hunter. Or IRIS. Yes, Cruel City – you’ve succeeded in getting an emotional response out of me, and I applaud your work. Now excuse me while I get another Kleenex and a shot of whiskey.
But first, the issues:
Min Hong Ki’s baby face and annoying half smile make me want to punch him, but not because I take him seriously as an adversary.
Min comes off as an errant schoolboy who needs to be smacked because he’s incapable of understanding the wrongness of his actions. Yes, he meets his end, but not after he gets the satisfaction of shooting Doc’s Son.
Jung Kyung Ho, is an amazing actor, but I wasn’t entirely sold by his crying. In the scene with Jin Sook, I understand that he’s been reduced to a child as she is now taking responsibility as his mother, but his tears over Hyun Soo’s death seemed more genuine.
The steamy romance between Doc’s Son and Soo Min is never revisited. We don’t even get a kiss! It felt like Doc’s Son knew that his time was limited so he had purposely set up a wall between him and Soo Min. He’s proud that she’s a cop, he has faith that she’ll continue to do the right thing, but he has to embark on his journey now – alone. After all, he’s just shot up half a dozen of Director Jo’s men. And committed a murder. He needs time to heal, physically and emotionally. And he can’t do that if he’s with Soo Min and worrying about how his presence will affect her safety.
So at the very end of this episode, we have an ambiguous shot of a man (with Doc’s Son’s hair) wearing a beige suit. All we see is his back as he places a mobile phone to his ear. Obviously, there was no point in showing us that shot unless the writers wanted us to conclude that Doc’s Son survived his bullet wound. Hyung Min probably helped him get a new identity and Shi Hyun’s laying low for now until the police clean up the cesspool of corruption that they’ve been slowly sinking into.
Through and through, Cruel City has been committed to the film noir genre. That means we don’t get closure, our characters continue to live in the shadows, in a life of uncertainty.
Hyun Soo died not knowing if Director Jo would ever be brought to “justice”, but he got to say his final farewell to Doc’s Son and let him know that their friendship was ultimately more important than anything else.
Jin Sook and Soo Min reconcile, but go their separate ways, having lost the man they both love.
Hyung Min finally gets to take down the DA’s office, but only after his father’s career is effectively over.
During Soo Min’s last hallucination, she sees that that the young Shi Hyun has been reunited with his first love, Kyung Mi. However, as the camera whirls around her, we suddenly cut to Doc’s Son narrating over a series of shots of the cruel city that he grew up in. With his back to us, we see him speaking to SOMEBODY on the phone. My conclusion is that Hyung Min, Soo Min, and Jin Sook are all in on his “disappearance”.
Do I want to watch Cruel City 2? I want to say yes, but that would be selfish and go against the essence of film noir. (And kdrama sequels tend to disappoint.) These characters deserve to head out into the fog, take that airplane to a foreign land, wear that uniform with a wiser sense of pragmatism, do their best to keep smiling – even if they’re crying alone.