If you believe the Bible, then we are all Cain’s children

cain and abel korean drama

I wonder what God must have thought when He saw the work of Cain’s hand? That the first baby born on the planet, grew up to kill the third man.

Brian M. Boyce, Genesis Beginning

Cain & Abel  (2009)
 Action, Crime, Melodrama,  Romance
Written by
Park Kye-ok
Directed by
Kim Hyung-shik
Country of Origin
South Korea

oh! … brief

This kdrama is all about the evil, conniving machinations of a greedy woman, insanely jealous over an imagined affair between her husband and the wife of a best friend. She goes to extreme lengths to enact her hatred and revenge on her innocent husband and step-son. The consequences of her revenge have a devastating effect on her eldest son.

oh! … talks drama

If you’ve read any of my other drama reviews, you know full well that I loathe melodramatic productions. This one, however, I was engrossed with.

I started watching this during Christmas in 2011 and got as far as episode 10 when I suffered a near-fatal motor vehicle accident that forever changed my life. The immediate three years that followed were spent in a blur of unimaginable pain and physical suffering, due to the traumatic injuries and misdiagnoses. There were many nights I wished for death, or that in the least my arm could be amputated. Survival though was most important being a single parent of three children who depended on me, two away at University. I had no option but to heal and fight every day to overcome the damage to my body, mind and spirit.

Perhaps this is the reason Lee Cho-in as a character appeals greatly to me and I can comprehend the magnitude of his pain.

It was always at the back of my mind to go rewatch the first ten episodes and pick up where I left off at the time of my accident. It took a lot of courage this past weekend to go back to that period of time in my life.

By melodrama standards the premise for the story of Cain and Abel and the backstory which you only come to fully comprehend closer to the end is extreme. In the world of drama, it’s perfectly plausible, not so much in the real world.

The cinematography for this production is superb and enhanced by masterful scene choreography. Everything from violent fight scenes to various surgical procedures was well captured. The medical procedures were not entirely accurate (patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures always have areas of their heads shaved. It’s impossible to operate with a mass of hair!).

The director made good use of natural backdrops and lighting to paint certain parts of the story. Aesthetically speaking this was one of the better melodramas I have watched and of course, the sentiment and emotion of the story play a large part of setting the stage.

The action scenes in the story were also well developed and choreographed and So Ji-sub was phenomenal in his fight scenes. Now you know why he has the physique he does, not just because he works out in a gym!  I can’t pretend to have knowledge of the defection fighting that goes on in North Korea and bubbles over into South Korea and other Asian countries. But, if anything the guerilla warfare in Rhodesia that I witnessed when I spent some of my childhood years living there has helped me understand.

The cameramen and filming crew captured the fight scenes and warfare seamlessly, to a point that I didn’t notice the use of stuntmen. Did they use them? I think So Ji-sub performed all his stunts, but I stand corrected.  The locations scout chose really good locations for filming outdoor scenes. Some of those included Cheongnamdae (a former presidential summer house and gardens), Eumseong Large Rock Face Sculpture Park in Chungcheongbuk, various locations in Suamgol that have amazing panoramic views.

The casting director carefully chose the actors and actresses for the various characters. As a team, they breathed life into the story and all brought different aspects to their roles, which helped convey the right emotions and mindset for the audience.

My least favourite character was Kim Hae-sook played by Na Hye-joo. Kim Hae-sook is the mentally unstable sociopathic mother and stepmother to the two leading males. When an actress can deliver a performance strong enough to create an emotional surcharge in the audience, that’s considered a success. I only wish that one of the dramas I watch will deal out justice to one of these overbearing mothers. I’ve a good mind to write my own screenplay doing just that and have it translated and then submit it. Mmmmmm

Jang Yong who played Lee Jong-min (the father) had the easiest role in the entire production. He spent all his time lying in a hospital bed looking dazed and confused and never uttering a single word, except a few lines delivered in flashback scenes. I’m glad the writer kept him in a crippled state and didn’t offer some unrealistic miracle to get him back on his feet and talking.  Given the type of role, I think it’s fair to say Jang Yong covered his character flawlessly.

Kim Seo-yeon who played Chae Jung-an was to me, a poor example of what it is to be a true woman. Yes, I set unrealistic expectations for this character, she is human and a woman after all and this is dramaland. But good grief woman, you never flip-flop in intimate relationships with brothers, no exceptions! And in particular, when one mysteriously disappears, you steel your heart against falling for his brother. That’s just inappropriate, plain and simple. It’s even worse when you are a repeat offender!  On the whole, I didn’t understand the writing of this character, that’s not to say it was flawed, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the things she did. My moral senses were severely punished by her behaviours. Kim Seo-yeon’s acting was okay given what she was dealt, but the sensibility was lacking. To me, she didn’t seem to struggle long enough or hard enough with her changing emotions. And she gave in far too easily. It was very sad!

Playing bad brother Lee Seon-woo was Shin Hyun-joon. While not my first preference for bad brother role, he Shin Hyun-joon did a good job in faultlessly mirroring the facial expressions of someone so engrossed in himself that he fails to acknowledge anyone else other than his targets. Man, I hated this character, but who wouldn’t? The suave debonair American-trained neurosurgeon extraordinaire was quickly replaced by a vile, jealous psychopath. In this case, the saying like mother, like son is aptly applied. I think Shin Hyun-joon’s performance could have been enriched, he came off as flat and wooden at times, but, I imagine that had a lot to do with his interpretation of the script and not necessarily his acting skills. I’m not a fan of his, I’ll admit. Not yet!

So Ji-sub played Lee Cho-in, the lead character for this production. He was amazing and mesmerising to watch. I’m a fan, always have been. I believe he has mastered drama-acting. I expect to see great things from him as he is still young. In this role, he has the most tragic character to deal with. An unlucky child from his premature birth, every possible horrific plot that can be thrown his direction is. So Ji-sub delivered every emotion, every sentiment imaginable for a melodrama production and then some. I was held captive by his acting. And like I’ve already mentioned, I could understand the depths and extent of his pain, both physical and emotional. I felt such empathy towards his character, unlike I have for any other drama character before. I cried and ached when he cried and ached. This was also a demanding role to have to play. Draining physically and emotionally, but, you never see any negative aspects of that, which is exceptional. I loved how So Ji-sub became a hardened stoic exterior shell of the man he truly was, but that even in the extreme turmoil he could still acknowledge his love for the woman who basically kept him whole.

Han Ji-min was by far the best choice for the character Oh Young-ji. I love her as she is one of South Koreas stronger actresses. She was endearing as Young-ji. I especially like that while her character is ignorant to a lot of the issues going on she plays the whole ‘dumb blonde’ aspect without being contrived. Including the fact she was used to keeping tabs on the victim, but also the complex ongoings in familial relationships to which she doesn’t fully understand the extent of her actions and those around her. She’s simple, not necessarily simple-minded but has been raised well in a kind loving home and not been subjected to plots. I loved how Han Ji-min painted a gentle, kind-hearted young woman who wants to earn money to bring her parents out of North Korea and be reunited with her brother. You can sense the love she brought to her character in the slight mannerisms and gentle way she deals with even heated situations. She was charming, even when she had wronged, she was still charming because you could understand the reason behind her wrong.

So why would this melodrama be better than any others before it? I have no specific answer for that other than to say it was. It was friggin fantastic!

oh! … sidekicks

I really didn’t like that the death of Oh Kang-chul came so quickly. I really wanted to see him reunited with his sister. But the way he died! Shocking! Park Sung-woong was the best choice to play older brother to Young-ji. The two of them, while being physically similar in features, are also similar in nature and acting skills. I loved these two for brother sister, I would have enjoyed seeing their chemistry together. Too bad. Park Sung-woong painted an honourable man who was fighting for his beliefs and his country and willing to sacrifice his life in the process. I really enjoyed watching the bromance he shared on screen with So Ji-sub.

Among all the other sidekicks (and there were plenty) there is one other I have to write about. He is another acclaimed actor but boy did he grate my skin in this role. Of course, I’m talking about Baek Seung-hyeon. WOW! His voice annoyed me but I loved, loved, loved his facial expression and his snakey character. It was cleverly pulled off, although it really irritated me to no end that nasal tone – I would have happily joined So Ji-sub just for the fact that I could personally annihilate that man.

oh! … that’s a wrap

While you have read many spoilers you should still watch this, I promise you will not be disappointed. So Ji-sub is phenomenal as Lee Cho-in but he has wonderful supporting cast members that bring this drama to life and make it one of the better melodramas out there.

You’ll enjoy this even if it is only because of So Ji-sub, but also if you like action, crime and suspenseful thrilling scenes to balance out the romance and sadness.

oh! … tidbits

In 2009, So Ji-sub won the Grimae Awards Best Actor award for this role.

Also in 2009 So Ji-sub won the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Actor of the Year in Broadcasting award for this role.

At the SBS Drama Awards in the same year, 2009, So Ji-sub was placed in the Top 10 Stars category and won. That category and also the Top Excellence Award, Actor award. At the same awards ceremony, Baek-Seung-hyeon won Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Special for his role in this production.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailer

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