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Thespian Review: Lee Min Ho – “City Hunter”

12 Aug

What a great summer this was! My favorite drama of the summer, City Hunter, ended two weeks ago and I suffered from withdrawal syndromes from missing it so much. The fast-paced action, the beautiful cinematography, the fitting soundtrack, and the wonderful cast—they’re all things I miss dearly. Above all, what I’m going to miss the most about City Hunter is Lee Min Ho.

Ever since his breakout performance in “Boys over Flowers”, we’ve seen Lee Min Ho transform from a solid actor who, despite not being incredibly nuanced, possessed so much potential to a true thespian—someone that can, not only carry a drama, but also deliver a performance worthy of awards. In my opinion, he has only gotten better each year at playing essentially the same character.

Yes, despite my seeming high praise for Lee Min Ho, I understand completely that he has only played one character for three years. Yoon Sung, Jin Ho, and Jun Pyo are essentially variations of the same pissy, egotistical, well-to-do, and often repressive character that Min Ho has played. What varies, however, is that each year, the Lee Min Ho character becomes more complicated and we see Min Ho improve his acting.

As Yoon Sung, the title character of the story, Lee Min Ho must encapsulate a hero of justice while trying to balance romance and familial duties at the same time. The story provides enough meat for Min Ho to chew on—his “stepfather” wants him to basically kill five people who killed 21 soldiers—one of them Min Ho’s supposed biological father. Instead, Yoon Sung wants to bring the five men to the prosecutor and have the law punish them. In addition, he romances a girl he’s dreamed of since he saw her in a picture long ago and also deal with a mother (played wonderfully by Kim Mi Sook) who abandoned him. In short, Yoon Sung has a lot of emotional baggage.

However, Lee Min Ho beautifully navigates through that emotional baggage with ease and aplomb. Each glance suggests a thought or feeling that seems beyond what it is he’s looking at. He mixes anguish and calm quite well. Yoon Sung is a very calculating person and Min Ho employs this calculating sense in all of his thoughts whether they are about a case or about his condescending comments. You can tell his comebacks and excuses to the prosecutor are as well thought out as his plans to punish his targets.

Despite his calculating nature, there are moments of uncertainty in his performance as well. This is especially true when he’s conversing with Nana. There’s a natural connection between Min Ho and Park Min Young and it shows onscreen. While he displays great confidence when he’s calculating his next move, almost all the time we see Yoon Sung become uncertain when he’s thinking about or talking to Kim NaNa. When he does his famous Lee Min Ho “I’m only letting you go to protect you” scene, this becomes more evident. In this scene–which he has done so many times in his other dramas–we can see how conflicted he is with letting Nana go and the desire to protect her.


And as we get closer to the ending, the initial confidence that Min Ho imbues in character slowly fades as the missions get more dangerous and more lives are at stake. With each joy he receives—resolutions with both Nana and his mother—means there is more chance of losing them and we see Yoon Sung is burdened by that thought.

The final crushing scene with his stepfather is especially touching as all sense of reason and calculation goes out the window and we are left with just a pained Lee Min Ho doing an act of desperation. When he realizes what just happened at the end, his final attempt to grasp his father’s hand is a miracle of a scene since we see that he knows what is about to happen and what he sadly can’t do for him. It is in this scene where I wish he’d do something far more dramatic and something out of his comfort zone because it shows he can totally nail the deeper moments of his characters.

City Hunter is action-packed, full of wonderful suspense and fun scenes. The acting is solid (although there are a few clunkers like Goo Hara’s brat) and the storylines, although sometimes frustrating, was pretty solid throughout. Above all, Lee Min Ho’s capable lead performance helps make the drama more enjoyable.

–by Clarence

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3 Responses to “Thespian Review: Lee Min Ho – “City Hunter””

  1. Alice August 24, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    Same character for 3 years…good point!! Never thought if it that way.

    • dramapop August 24, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      And to tell you the truth we actually love all three characters (it’s the effect of LMHot)

  2. pema choedon April 11, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    it was amazing movie that i really love this movie….love u Lee Min Ho..

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