Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Han So-hee shines in My Name as a woman who gives up everything to seek revenge on her father’s killer, even if the eight-episode series sticks to most of the tried-and-tested tropes of the revenge and gangster genres.
After rising to fame as a mistress in The World of the Married and an art student with poor choices in men in Nevertheless, Han So-hee takes on her most challenging role to date as Oh Hye-jin, a lonely student whose father — a gangster on the wanted list — is murdered in front of her eyes.
After the police dismisses her father’s case, she turns to the one person who she believes can help her find the killer, the head of the mob her father was part of, Choi Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon, The Age of Shadows, 1987: When The Day Comes). He trains her to become a fighter and turns her into Yoon Ji-woo, a mole who goes undercover in the police department to find the truth behind her father’s death.
As part of the police narcotics unit, she has to make sure the chief, Cha Gi-ho (Kim Sang-ho, Kingdom, Sweet Home), and her partner, detective Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun, Yumi’s Cells, Itaewon Class) don’t discover her identity while she searches for answers and protects Choi Mu-jin at the same time.
My Name offers itself as a fresh addition to Korea’s already vast trove of gangster shows with a simple twist: The lead character, whose thirst for revenge is strong enough to overpower dozens of other well-trained men and defy biological laws about how much torture the human body can take, is a woman.
But in the hands of writer Kim Ba-da, whose last two films (Life Risking Romance, The Huntresses) also featured bad-ass female leads, any weaknesses or vulnerabilities inherent in being a woman are quickly addressed and dealt with. She’s not as physically strong as men? She can outsmart them. She faces the threat of rape? She’s trained enough to defend herself. There aren’t any complex gender commentaries here; the series simply aims to show that a woman can lead a hard-core action series as effectively as a man.
On that front, My Name succeeds. The multiple fight scenes are choreographed to raise your heart rate, and there is convincing power behind Yoon Ji-woo’s punches (thanks to the 10 kg of muscle Han So-hee reportedly gained over two months of training to prepare for this role).
This aside, the show features revenge and gangster tv tropes that at times made it seem predictable, and a plot that could have easily been turned into a film. But the eight-episode series format allowed for a more thorough exploration of Oh Hye-jin’s backstory and transformation. With this, Yoon Ji-woo is more than a daughter looking for her father’s killer; she’s a loner and an outcast, but she knows how to stand up for herself. With no one else to depend on, she gives up her identity to transform into a fighter, and then into a killer.
This not only gave us a more fleshed-out character to root for and empathize with, but also allowed Han So-hee to showcase her acting range. Her performance is arguably the show’s biggest selling point. With My Name, Han So-hee establishes herself as a worthy member of the relatively small club of Korean actresses who can kick ass on-screen.
It’s not just her, though. The supporting cast, led by Park Hee-soon as a gangster boss/father figure and Ahn Bo-hyun as her reluctant partner, turn in noteworthy performances that make you pay attention (and Google their previous work).
My Name’s biggest weakness, perhaps, is that it comes in the wake of some truly exceptional Netflix originals from South Korea — the runaway global hit Squid Game, director Kim Jin-min’s own Extracurricular, D.P. (Deserter Pursuit), Move to Heaven — titles that dug deep and broke molds to give us fresh stories that resonate while simultaneously disturbing and entertaining us.
This series might not be in that league, but that does not mean it’s not worth a weekend binge. Watch to see Han So-hee powerfully riveting breakdown in episode 6. Watch her transform into a female John Wick by the end of the series. Watch for the expected and unexpected twists and turns.
My Name might not be groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.
Stream it: If you're in the mood for a bad-ass action series.
Skip it: If you're expecting something as extraordinary or unique as Squid Game or Extracurricular.