“Punch” is, certainly for me, one of the best crime thrillers for a long time. The setting is primarily focused on the heavy presence of corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary system. I also need to admit this is also one of the most difficult dramas to analyze since it requires a moderate comprehension about police crime. I can understand why most of the international viewers preferred “Healer” which was a competitor in the same time slot. “Punch” was quite a show. Was it worth watching? Definitely yes!
If I were to recommend “Punch”, it would be based on the stellar performance of our main leads, Kim Ah Joong and Kim Rae Won, tight writing and incredible suspense. Honestly, I was hesitant in watching the show because the premise seemed cliche. Following a cold blooded betrayal, the corrupt prosecutor Park Jung Hwan, willing to redeem himself by living without regrets, decides to turn against his former boss, Lee Tae Joon (Cho Jae Hyun), before he dies from a malignant brain tumor.
Terminal illness is an overdone concept in Korean dramas. In this drama, however, it becomes a substantial motive of our main character and is the special key behind a wonderful script. Of course, the storyline evolves with Jung Hwan attempting to make amends with his ex-wife, Shin Ha Kyung. While both of them have similar jobs, their methods are vastly different. Jung Hwan believes the only way of achieving justice is making compromises with wrongdoers, while Ha Kyung respects and upholds the law by the book. I believe this contrast is important to the plot thanks to the villains trying to set obstacles for Jung Hwan and these somehow help him realizing his lifelong mistakes.
Beyond the main cast, Tae Joon was very despicable as an opponent. He’s quite a character: a charismatic and resourceful man hiding a knife behind his back waiting for a perfect strike. Despite the ending as ultimately predictable, I cannot bring myself to hate him enough for the hell he unleashed to everyone. I just had a lot of respect for him for sharing his last drink with Jung Hwan even behind bars and keeping his promise to bring down the real villain.
The one who really makes me angry down to my bones is Minister Yoon Ji Sook (Choi Myung Gil). Her high sense of justice while covering her malicious mischief screams hypocrisy. The shock arrives with Ji Sook being the role model of Ha Kyung and the worst thing she did was converting Ho Sung (On Joo Wan), a close friend to our protagonists, to her cause. While the minister is trying to take the monster Tae Joon out of commission, she eventually turned into a much scarier one. However, I cannot figure out who is the biggest psychopath between the two. Both are extraordinary villains worthy of a commendation.
Moving on with the script, I never felt a single moment in the drama was boring. On the contrary, I highly praise for being balanced consistently and the impressive script joined with a high level of intensity to keep the audience at the edge of their seats. In addition, the glorious Gregorian chant and the booming soundtrack amplify the suspense. I just wish there are more songs and varied sound effects in the show making some drama moments less monotonous and emotionally balanced.
What really drags me down about “Punch” is my concern over the credibility gap over certain scenes and the setting itself. I am quite familiar with the judiciary system. It is no surprise a government has a lot of “rotten apples,” a criminological term defining someone in politics or law enforcement involved in illegal activities, but the Illinois drug bust felt over the top. I just felt this scene didn’t have enough realism in mind about Korean prosecutors collaborating with Americans where laws and regulations are clearly different. It was nonetheless a superb entry to the series with Jung Hwan helping his future nemesis, Tae Joon, ascend to the superior office, by using his contacts over the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) for framing the son of a rival law firm.
Another negative point I would like to bring forward was the conclusion. Actually, it is more of a mixed impression. I’m not sure if I could rightfully describe the finale as underwhelming or disconcerting. After the constant rollercoaster feeling brought by the show, the pace of the final episode felt like most of its airtime was in slow motion. Perhaps it was inevitable for the storyline cutting loose ends and plot holes in order to deliver us a bittersweet ending following Jung Hwan’s disappearance among the living.
“Punch” is certainly one of the best shows around if you want to engage into a show that demands a bit of thought processing. It is a well-written and fast-paced adventure with a simple plot about a man on the verge of death being given a second chance to make things right. His difficult journey is brought to life with an amazing usage of soundtrack. Some of the scenes felt slightly unrealistic and unbelievable but most of them play a significant role for progressing the story. My verdict for Punch ends with a score of 8/10.
Let us know how you felt about “Punch” in the comments below!