After Ji Hyung Min (Lee Jae Yoon) agrees to allow his fiancée to be an undercover police for his mission to catch the dangerous and mysterious drug ring leader known as the Doctor’s Son (Jung Kyung Ho), she gets killed whilst on this mission. Now, on a very personal mission to catch Doctor’s Son, Ji Hyung Min assigns a newly recruited police entrant and friend of his dead fiancée, Yoon Soo Min (Nam Gyu Ri), to go undercover, gather intelligence and avenge the killing of their loved one.
Heartless City / 무정도시 is set in the violent underground world of the drug dealing business. It tells a story about a group of people at the heart of it, trying to survive and come out of the harsh and brutal world alive and as a human being.
Labelled as a crime, thriller, romance and action series (others label it as crime, mystery, noir), Heartless City is not the type of series we usually watch. We don’t touch anything that’s labelled Thriller, (not often) Crime, or anything that’s sombre or violent. We do enjoy action and romance, though. How we came to know about Heartless City was through watching the 2015 romance/drama Korean series, Falling for Innocence, and loving Jung Kyung Ho in that series. We went through the catalogue of dramas that Jung Kyung Ho starred in and Heartless City stood out even with the crime and thriller classification. With the series having the additional genre of romance, we thought Heartless City might not be as violent, dark or sombre as we think it could get. And so, we decided to give Heartless City a go.
The opening sequence of the series was dark, sombre and contains scenes of violence—as expected from a series like this. It opens with a man in the night streets seemingly worried about someone following; we see him constantly checking behind as he goes across the city streets into an alleyway. He’s heard talking to someone in the police force—Director Min Hong Ki (Son Chang Min). It seems this man who’s in an alleyway is an undercover police sent into the drug ring for intelligence on a drug ring leader known as, Scale (Kim Byung Ok). This man provides the location of a drug deal that’s happening then expresses to the Director this job will be his last job. Director Min Hong Ki understands. Then, a few scenes later, this undercover police falls from the sky and down onto the car parked below at ground floor, eyes opened with blood running down his face and dead.
This sort of graphic close-up scene is just amongst a handful in the series. The majority is hand-to-hand combat fighting, knife fights, guns and stabbings. There’s definitely a fair amount of violence in the series. There are even gruesome acts being carried out on characters, but these aren’t shown; we only hear the pain the characters are experiencing. Nevertheless, it’s not easy listening to it as we can imagine what we can’t see. Heartless City is not a prettied-up crime, mystery, action series with an atmosphere holding a degree of lightness even with its serious and dark theme and setting. Heartless City has the serious tone of a crime, mystery and action series.
We were able to watch Heartless City without much trouble even with those violent scenes that sometimes had us watching through shielded eyes. It actually became a very addictive watch for us and we found ourselves going from one episode to the next, curious with what was happening in the story.
There are couple characters in Heartless City who are rather mysterious and this provided uncertainty in the plot that made us continuously go back and forth trying to figure out if the character was good or bad. Min Hong Ki and Safari (Choi Moo Sung) were the couple characters we debated on whether they were good or bad. Min Hong Ki is the director of the police and the special investigations unit that Ji Hyung Min leads. We had taken him to be the good guy initially because of his occupation as well as the fact of him directing undercover police in the drug world. But we began to question his character when he started to feel pushy, demanding and shady. Then, around the middle of the series, Safari—a subordinate working for a large drug ring leader to whom we later find out is an undercover police Min Hong Ki had sent into the drug world—made a comment about how Min Hong Ki’s wife had finally left him during a meeting at Min Hong Ki’s home. This comment had a tone of smugness and hinted Min Hong Ki’s bad character. This clued us into thinking there was something off about Min Hong Ki, but wasn’t enough to have us think Min Hong Ki was bad. When Safari’s knowledge on how Doctor’s Son’s mother died conflicted with those provided by Min Hong Ki, we realise Min Hong Ki was up to no good. At this point, even though facts pointed to Min Hong Ki being bad, it was hard to figure out if there was a chance that Min Hong Ki’s orders might still be for something good, but just executed the wrong way. With Safari, we saw him as good; however, we didn’t know how assimilated into the drug world he was and so we remained unsure about him right through to the closing episodes of the series.
The romance plot in Heartless City was developed very early on in the series—in fact, there was a steamy scene between the leads very early on. This scene was the highlight scene for romance for the pairing. After this, scenes for the romance plot were pretty much insert scenes in amongst the more important scenes of the main plot. The romance plot remained in the background until the major problem for the pair came into play where Yoon Soo Min—the female lead character—finally discovers that Doctor’s Son is actually the person she loves—Doctor’s Son being the person Yoon Soo Min is told to be the killer of her beloved friend, but Doctor’s Son isn’t the killer of her beloved friend. And so, this was the climatic point for the romance plot.
At the point of Yoon Soo Min discovering the identity of Doctor’s Son, Yoon Soo Min goes from a sweet girl-next-door to a tough and strong action girl with a killer glare and fighting skills that has the ability to injure. She becomes a hindrance to a mission which ends up seeing Doctor’s Son being shot by a sniper’s gun as he ran to save Yoon Soo Min—someone who had held a gun to Doctor’s Son with a desire to kill. Yoon Soo Min was frustrating during this part in the series. She came across as irrational, impulsive and unlike the sweet girl-next-door character that we had been enjoying so far. Fortunately for this character of Yoon Soo Min, the action came just in time and we see her come back around to the sweet girl-next-door character and she resumed playing a spy agent-like character after this problem between them was resolved.
The frustration we had with Yoon Soo Min’s character at this point in the story was probably also due to the timing of which this character found out Doctor’s Son’s identity: it was already common knowledge for her superior, Ji Hyung Min, when Yoon Soo Min found out; and Ji Hyung Min, he was already working with Doctor’s Son to find the real killer of her beloved friend. Because of the timing of it, Yoon Soo Min came across as the unpredictable character who had the potential to ruin plans and this made her frustrating.
Yoon Soo Min was the female lead character of the series, but we felt she wasn’t as frequently onscreen or ‘in the action’ as Lee Jin Sook (Kim Yoo Mi). Lee Jin Sook is a major character in the main story plot of Heartless City. She is the CEO of many adult entertainment businesses. She is one of Doctor’s Son’s people and is well-connected to all of the people, situations and the drug world that the story focuses around. Yoon Soo Min’s part in the story was only limited to being an information provider, passing on information that has other characters drive the main story along. Yoon Soo Min was useful in the romance plot, but the romance plot was very much a side plot. Lee Jin Sook didn’t take over the title of the female protagonist simply because she wasn’t the love interest of the male lead character and wasn’t used by the bad guys as a weak point of the male lead character, but Lee Jin Sook definitely felt like she had more of a use in the main story plot and featured more in comparison.
The lead male character, Doctor’s Son—real name, Jung Shi Hyun—was extremely interesting and intriguing to watch. This character is sombre and serious, but he is a kind and down-to-earth character who was dealt with a harsh life, surrounded by the underground world of the drug dealing business at quite a young age. He’s an undercover police on the right side of the law, but his job makes him head deeper and deeper into the dark and harsh drug dealing world that he’s trying to get out of. This then sees the character struggling to return to regular society as a regular citizen. He’s someone who doesn’t fit in the drug world because he still upholds good morals and values and trying to do the right thing, but he’s also someone who no longer fits in regular society because he’s been in the drug world for much too long and has done bad things. And so, he’s neither a monster nor a human-being; neither belonging here nor there.
Jung Shi Hyun is without a doubt a super interesting character—one that makes us wish he could get a break and be able to reach the light at the end of such a long and dark tunnel. Jung Shi Hyun was a character that had such a heavy burden on his shoulders. He rarely smiled. Not a lot of happy and fun moments came to the him, either. Yoon Soo Min was the only happy thing that popped into his life. But even as that was a happy thing, he was stressed out trying to protect her and trying to keep her out of harm’s way that more often than not ended up hurting Yoon Soo Min which in turn ended up hurting himself. :’o( :’o(.
The friendship between Kim Hyun Soo (Yoon Hyun Min)—the right-hand man of Doctor’s Son—and Doctor’s Son stands out in the series. Though Doctor’s Son is an undercover police where his main mission is to bring down the drug world and these people in the drug world are people he should be working against and not care for, Kim Hyun Soo is someone Doctor’s Son will rush to save without a second thought. Kim Hyun Soo reciprocates in kind as well: he is very loyal to Doctor’s Son. Even when Kim Hyun Soo wanted to kill Doctor’s Son’s older sister-like friend for being involved in the killing of his girlfriend, he stops his actions because Doctor’s Son had pleaded him, for his sake, to not do it. And when Kim Hyun Soo found out that Doctor’s Son was police, he was still loyal to Doctor’s Son.
It was also really fun to see actors, Jung Kyung Ho and Yoon Hyun Min, play best friends in this series unlike in Falling for Innocence where these two actors were adversaries. In Falling for Innocence, Yoon Hyun Min’s character constantly had Jung Kyung Ho’s character backed into a corner, making Jung Kyung Ho’s character suffer all the underhanded things he directed at him. It was really nice seeing the actors play characters who were so nice to each other after seeing a series where they were not so nice to each other!
Another relationship we enjoyed watching was Doctor’s Son and Ji Hyun Min. It’s the secret identity of Doctor’s Son in this relationship that made it interesting. We looked forward to seeing Ji Hyun Min discover that Doctor’s Son is undercover police who isn’t a bad guy, but a good guy wanting to do good. By the time this fact was revealed, though, Ji Hyung Min and Doctor’s Son were seeing eye to eye and working as a team already. So, the discovery of the secret identity of Doctor’s Son had very little impact on things. Still, the story ended up seeing these two working together which was what we had wanted to see. It was awesome watching these two characters who are the mirrors of each other yet not—one is a dark and edgy police detective tainted by his time in the drug world while the other is a model example of a police detective—come together and working as a team to bring down the bad guys!
The relationships that featured in Heartless City were definitely very enjoyable and lovable. Great relationships with many interesting characters and exciting and suspense-filled plot, it makes Heartless City a great and awesome watch. There is not a lot of romance in this series, but the amount that was shown in the series were what we expected. With such an interesting action plot, an even subtler romance plot wouldn’t have decreased the watch-ability of the series at all. The story moved along very well and we found the ending of Heartless City a fitting one.
Heartless City wasn’t too much of a thriller as some have labelled it to be. There weren’t things that made us feel terribly anxious or worried for the safety or well-being of the protagonist as thrillers tend to have. Heartless City could possibly be a light thriller, but we feel it’s definitely closer to a crime, action, mystery drama with romance filtering through. People looking for a good crime, action, mystery drama with a plot that gets you moving on from one episode to the next, Heartless City is definitely a must watch! Fans and followers of Jung Kyung Ho won’t be disappointed with Heartless City either as Jung Kyung Ho plays yet another interesting and cool character that makes you starstruck by his awesomeness!