Hi: I decided to write these short reviews as a guide to anyone who is currently “discovering” Jang Hyuk. Of course, everyone’s taste is different but I hope this is helpful to someone. These are only highlights of feelings and impressions that stuck but for more detailed reviews I will need to re watch. In the meantime, here we go with the first group of series.
Into the Sunlight – 1999 – This is the latest I’ve seen (I’ve been discovering Jang Hyuk from his latest work to the earliest). Here, Jang Hyuk plays Myung-Ha a quiet, bad boyish, James Dean-ish type. A motorcycle, constant smoking and brooding is included for an added rebellious aura. The series is slow at times (lots of scenes of angsty teenagers looking at ceilings, bored, pondering…) I did become “impatient” during some of those scenes. The ff button was used, I confess. But I finished it in less than a week and I never got bored with the series as a whole. It includes one of the most romantic and sweet kisses I’ve seen in Kdrama so far (between Myung Ha and Soo Bin, his hand shaking with emotion and nervousness, it looked so sweet but real and sexy at the same time, my mother was impressed and that lady is not easily impressed) It also features one of the cutest bromances on screen, between Myung Ha (Jang Hyuk) and In-Ha (Cha Tae-Hyun). I recommend it, especially to JH fans, to appreciate his talent, already evident in his early work. But you do need to have patience for the pace and the teen angst. Watch this slideshow of Into the Sunlight screen caps.
Daemang (The Great Ambition) – 2002 – 2003 I love sageuk and if it includes Jang Hyuk, much better. Jang Hyuk plays Park Jae Young, a smart but “naive’ and nerdy guy who refuses to learn martial arts and would rather solve problems using his brain. It doesn’t always work out for him as his psychopathic older brother and extremely ambitious father set out to make his life hell. Jang Hyuk suffers beautifully as Park Jae Young evolves from “loser” to “hero” with the help of some very good friends and the love of his life, Yoon Jeo Yin ( played by none other than Queen Seondeok’s Lee Yo Won). Actually, this video which features Lee Yo Won, was the reason I wanted to watch this series even before I developed my huge crush on Jang Hyuk. While the plot moved slowly at times, and the psychopath brother got on my very last nerve there are so many lovable characters in this series! I also like the OST very much. Click here to read a longer review, with spoilers and images
Chuno (The Slave Hunters) – 2010 – I’ve watched Chuno three times and I will watch it again (I just got the DVD’s and I “need” to test them you know? It is not that I’m obsessed or anything…) However, I never watch all of Chuno. In fact, the first time I tried to watch it, I postponed it, because I felt it started out too slow. But later, when I finally watched it, I fell in love with one part of it. So in love that it still haunts me. So mesmerized and fascinated that when I listen to the equally extraordinary soundtrack I need to gulp down my tears again. Oh yes, because Chuno is all passion, action, friendship, obsession, love, unrequited, forbidden, lost and found love. But it is above all, raw feeling, raw, painful, deep, real feeling. The plot might not be perfect, I found some sub plots a bit dense (the slave revolt, the political intrigue) but Daegil and his journey through hell and back was such an unforgivable experience. Daegil, a legendary character portrayed beyond perfection by Jang Hyuk. If Chuno had been the only thing Jang Hyuk had done, I still would’ve thought he was the best Korean actor in history, just because of this performance. It is THAT amazing. I might change my mind some day, but for now, I’m stuck on Hyuk (and Daegil) who made me love a character and cry like no other.
The Tree with Deep Roots – 2011 – This is the first Jang Hyuk series I watched and it turned me into a fan (although not as obsessed as after I watched Chuno). It is interesting because I consider this drama to be better written and I do love all of it. I got into it from the very first scene, when Ddolbok was measuring the steps it would take him to get close enough to the king, to be able to kill him. His sharp eyes full of revenge and determination, his awesome action moves. I was like, Who is this man? I mean, I knew who he was, it was the guy with the abs I had just tried to watch a few days ago in Chuno (this was before I fully appreciated DaeGil) but here he was just so much more “alive” and intense (Ddolbok is intense from the very first scene, Daegil looked a little more “depressed”). And so I kept watching this fascinating story unfold, without blinking. Sure, Ddolbok was mostly a supporting character to the Great King Sejong (played by Han Suk Kyu ), but Jang Hyuk did an awesome job with Ddolbok, who served both as the king’s catalyst and the voice of the people. He had an aggressive personality, and his circumstances had filled him with rage. You could feel Ddolbok’s pain in his words, and his eyes. But he was also very smart, and funny and a great fighter. He reminded me of Zorro. So Jang Hyuk was able to show his wide range as an actor with Ddolbok, his dramatic, his action and his comedic skills all at once. This is definitely a must see, not only for Jang Hyuk fans. I consider The Tree With Deep Roots a masterpiece and the best written korean series I’ve watched so far.