Splash it or skip it?

new korean drama on netflix, drug saints, combines the genre “fish out of water” and “common man is busy with something bad”, to very good effect. How do we know? Because it’s a serious show, but not too serious. Read on for an explanation of what we mean.

Opening shot: “2009, Suriname Frontier.” A group of trucks driving along a road in the woods. In the back of a truck, a Korean man wears glasses with an autographed baseball sign. “Do you know a country called Suriname? The man said in a loud voice.

essence: This guy is Kang In-gu (Ha Jung-woo), who explains why he’s there by telling his story. Born in 1968, his father went to fight in Vietnam, then when he returned he worked multiple jobs, especially after the death of In-Jo’s mother, until his death also in a work accident. At that point, In-gu was in charge of looking after his brothers, taking on multiple jobs himself. He married the first woman who agreed to him more to help him take control of his life; Then they had children, and the various jobs he was engaged in became a business. He worked recently, but was hardly able to make ends meet.

Then his friend, Park Eung-soo (Hyun Bong Shik), came home from a global fish-selling trip, with a business opportunity: exporting skate fish from Suriname, where it is not eaten, to Korea for huge profits. After convincing his wife, and nearly getting caught at his karaoke bar, he arrives in the small South American country ready to be in the fish business.

As a smart entrepreneur, he can direct his partner’s bleakest past into potential problems, such as when an army officer comes in and tells him he needs to pay for “protection.” But when a Chinese gangster named Chen Zhen (Chang Chen) claims to “own the sea” and physically threatens them for his monthly blackmail, the partners seem to be in trouble.

On the orders of his wife, In-gu goes to church to pretend to pray. Reverend Jun Yeo-hwan (Hwang Jung Min) is happy to see two Koreans in his church, so he meets them. Bruises on the faces of the partners indicate that they are in trouble, so they tell the priest about Chen Zhen. An influential pastor drags men to Chinatown in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, and does not kindly negotiate a better deal. But In-gu was shocked to discover that a shipment had broken down in Aruba because cocaine was hidden inside.

drug saints
Photo: Cho Wonjin / Netflix

What programs will remind you of it? drug saints In the Too bad And the Ozark School “normal schlub gets busy with drugs/money laundering/organized crime and things escalate from there.”

Our advice: Written by Kwon Sung-hui and Yoon Jong-bin (the show also directed Yoon), drug saints He does a great job of showing the absurdity, or at least the weirdness, of Kang In-gu’s story, which is presumably based on real events. It’s a show that’s definitely created for an international audience, not just because it takes place outside of South Korea, but because it’s about this seemingly ordinary guy caught up in the drug trade in a strange country on the other side of the world from his home.

Episode 1 doesn’t attempt to be this dark sadness showing how In-gu has immersed itself in what appears to be Suriname’s biggest business – he says more than half of the small country’s 500,000 residents are involved in it. While In-gu’s life isn’t exactly sweet and light, he treats his predicaments with a reality that is almost amusingly detached, as if watching his crazy life from above. This perspective helps here; In-gu knows his story isn’t entirely believable and treats his version of it as such.

What will be interesting is to see how he gets involved in the Suriname government’s war against the country’s drug lords, how Reverend Jeon gets involved, and if In-gu is going home – for all we know, he might not want to.

Gender and skin: no one.

parting shot: After a long chase on foot, In-gu was finally arrested by the local law enforcement authorities.

Sleeper Star: Chang Chen as Chen Zhen is a lot of fun to watch as this shrewd but menacing gangster, who can intimidate someone like In-gu, but seems to have no way of standing up to Reverend Jeon.

Most of the Pilot-y line: When Reverend Qin Chen ordered that In Gu and Eung Soo be given skateboarding shoes, he said, “That’s what God commands, you son of a bitch.” Whoa, priest! Do you kiss the forehead of your parishioners with this mouth?

Our call: stream it. drug saints It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which, along with its setting, makes it one of the best K-dramas we’ve seen since. squid game.

Joel Keeler (Tweet embed) He writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: He’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.comAnd the VanityFair.comand Fast Company and elsewhere.

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