Set during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Bloodhounds makes good use of the restrictive situation. Even after three years, we are still coping with the damage caused by the deadly virus. The lower-income strata suffered the most as businesses shut down and unemployment rose. Bloodhounds taps into that suffering and weaves a tale that involves small business owners, loan sharks, and a few benevolent individuals. It is the relatability that works in favor of Bloodhounds from the very first episode. The premise of Bloodhounds is not that grand. It is purely a tale of good and evil, and throughout the eight episodes, we watch the two extremes fight for survival and dominance. Even though the story started on an original note, the theme makes it predictable. Gradually, the plot reaches a point that is too familiar, and it eventually loses its spark.
At the center of the good vs. evil storyline are two best friends, Woo-jin (played by Lee Sang-yi) and Gun-woo (played by Woo Do-hwan). While they were starkly different from one another in terms of personalities, they shared a beautiful friendship. Known for bringing an opponent down with one impactful blow in the boxing ring, Gun-woo was a soft-spoken, extremely well-behaved, and respectful young man. He believed it was his duty to always choose the right path and help those who could not fight their battles. He did not care about the money that boxing brought; he believed in discipline, respect, and sincerity. Contrary to Gun-woo’s beliefs, all Woo-jin cared about was the money that he could bring home after a boxing match.
A proud Marine Corps, Woo-jin seemed tough on the outside but was a soft-hearted individual. He taught Gun-woo to relax and enjoy life as they hopped from one eatery to another during their free time. Initially, when Gun-woo and Woo-jin fought in the boxing ring, it seemed that they would be posed as opponents even after the fight. But it was interesting to watch the bromance that developed as soon as they stepped out of the ring. While Woo-jin taught Gun-woo to ease up, Gun-woo brought discipline into Woo-jin’s life. Gun-woo and Woo-jin’s friendship was beautifully written, and Woo Do-hwan and Lee Sang-yi’s chemistry on screen was absolutely on point. The friendship between the two male leading characters is surely the highlight of Bloodhounds, though as the series progresses and more elements are brought in, the bromance does not get prioritized.
As small business owners struggled to keep their businesses afloat, a wicked con man devised a plan to take advantage of the crisis situation. Kim Myeong-gil was dominating the streets as his men schemed and convinced small business owners to take loans from them instead of the bank. While the deal seemed attractive, the owners did not notice the fine print details of the agreements, and they fell for the ploy. Myeong-gil was not only blackmailing and extracting money from small business owners; he had also come up with a plan to destroy other loan sharks. Gun-woo’s mother ran a cafe business, and she struggled to pay the store’s rent. When Myeong-gil’s men discussed their offer with her, she decided to sign the papers to save some money. Soon men stormed into her cafe, and she realized she had made a huge mistake. Gun-woo tried to defend his mother and fought Myeong-gil’s men, but he was ultimately defeated. Myeong-gil carved a scar on his face to teach him a lesson, unbeknownst to him, that the man he challenged would go to extreme lengths to fight for a fair and just world.
I am glad that Bloodhounds did not introduce a romantic angle to the revenge crime thriller. The two female lead characters— Hyeon-ju and Da-min—though different in their approaches, were equally headstrong and determined to put up a fight till the very end. Mostly clad in black clothes, Hyeon-ju appears mysterious and immediately draws the attention of the audience toward her. Hyeon-ju was a particularly gripping character and quite an important one too, and her sudden exit from the show was not well justified. Though the creators did not have an option considering the legal trouble Kim Sae-ron was in after the drunk driving scandal. Da-min comes off as an afterthought, though Jung Da-eun delivers an earnest performance as the young, innocent, and talented archer.
Directed by Kim Joo-hwan, Bloodhounds delivers some great action sequences. It is bloody, it is gory, and it is definitely impactful. The scenes were well choreographed, especially considering multiple actors were involved. The fish farm fight scene had captivating visuals, especially the red tone does wonders and elevates the scene. If you are into action films and gore, then Bloodhounds must be on your next to-watch list. While the action scenes are effective, the same cannot be said about the story. Yes, there are certain good moments, but overall, it felt too stretched. With each episode lasting an hour, it gradually started to feel repetitive. A series only makes sense when you have plenty to say, but Bloodhounds revolves around a rather simple story, and the complications that are introduced eventually do not make much sense. The series could have been edited into a shorter version, and I believe it would have been way more compelling than what we get to watch. When there is one villain and two heroes, you can already anticipate the climax, and no matter how complicated it gets, we all know how the tale of morality goes. I have to mention that episode 6 was a complete blast— it was shocking, thrilling, emotional, and unpredictable.
Overall, Bloodhounds is not a complete miss. There are moments and characters that were well thought out and worth rooting for. There are countless films and shows about the age-old tale of good versus evil, and Bloodhounds is not extraordinary, but it is a show worth tuning into for the action scenes and the friendship between the lead male characters.