One of OCN’s newest crime dramas is Rugal, a fast-paced, action-packed, nail-biting sci-fi that will keep you on the edge of your seat for every single one of its 16 hours!
“Know your limits, utilize your strengths, but avoid what can hurt you.” – Choi Geum-Cheol
With an armful of beautiful flowers, Detective Kang Ki-Beom enters his apartment ready to celebrate his wedding anniversary but is shocked to find his sweet wife laying on the floor in a puddle of blood, her throat slashed. Instantly, he is attacked by a group of men all wearing the same eerie masks and, not being able to fight them all off, he is held down while one man savagely carves out his eyeballs. When he awakens he finds himself handcuffed to a hospital bed, charged with the gruesome murder of his wife. Blind, Ki-Beom is sent to prison and, while there, receives the unsolicited help of an unknown voice who claims he is willing to help Ki-Beom escape. Things are set up and Ki-Beom is transferred to a hospital where he does indeed escape. He is then taken to Rugal headquarters where he is given computerized eyes and enhanced physical abilities. When Ki-Beom’s surgery is complete he finds he is now part of a small group of incredible humans, designed specifically to take down the criminal organization know simply as Argos. Could they possibly be the ones behind the tragedy Ki-Beom has suffered?
Kang Ki-Beom used to be part of an elite police unit before he was drafted into Rugal. After loosing his wife, his eyes, and his freedom he was more than happy to once again go after criminals. His new eyes are like a computer which he can extract data from whenever he needs information. They also help him analyze a combatant’s upcoming move, giving him time to dodge the intended blow. The AI technology in his eyes is also able to read his brainwaves and predict his thoughts. Because his devastating experiences are still so vivid in his mind, his emotions are raw and he finds it difficult to think before he acts. He becomes very close to Tae-Woong and thinks of him as a big brother. Tae-Woong tells Ki-Beom, “You have the guts to make bold decisions and have incredible physical attributes.”
In order to make ends meet, at the young age of nine years old, Han Tae-Woong joined Argos. In an effort to keep him safe and get him out of the organization, his older sister went to the police and told them about Tae-Woong’s connection to Argos. Soon after she left the police station she was murdered and, while mourning her death, Tae-Woong was attacked by masked men who brutally cut off his right arm. Left for dead by the monsters, he was rescued and taken to Rugal headquarters where he received a mechanical arm. Although the arm itself is capable of amazing abilities, the tissues connected to it can suffer great damage if he looses his focus. Tae-Woong is the quiet, calm, level-headed leader of the Rugal team.
While protecting some witnesses that were set to testify against Argos, Officer Song Mi-Na (along with two other officers) was captured by some Argos members, taken to those criminal’s usual execution spot, shot in the head, and abandoned. Tae-Woong found her and took her back to Rugal’s hideout where she was kept alive by inserting a chip in her brain that manages her blood flow and balance. However, if the chip is knocked out of place, her blood could flow backwards and her body could become paralyzed. Mi-Na and Ki-Beom were on the same police force together and are close friends. She works out like crazy and, as a result, can really kick ass.
The youngest Rugal team member is Lee Gwang-Cheol. He suffered severe burns from an explosion but Rugal’s doctors and scientists were able to treat him and keep him alive. Electric currents from the artificial organs they made for him stimulate his skin, which prevents further necrosis. If the current gets cut off not only will the necrosis keep spreading but his organs will shut down. To prevent that from happening he was given a wireless battery pack that is easy for him to carry and charge. He respects Tae-Woong, looks up to Ki-Beom, and may have a slight crush on Mi-Na.
After killing Argos’ chairman, Hwang Deuk-Gu isn’t afraid of anyone and he’s determined to take over the entire organization, no matter what it takes. The man is as evil as evil can get. Although he doesn’t hesitate to get rid of people he doesn’t like, he’d rather delegate most of the dangerous tasks to his many minions. By using people his henchmen have kidnapped, he is making a genetically modified army that he uses as disposable human weapons. He despises Ki-Beom and wants to inflict as much pain on him as possible. Deuk-Gu boasts, “There are two kinds of people for me – enemy and pray.”
For information about Choi Jin-Hyuk, the excellent actor who plays the part of Rugal’s Kang Ki-Beom, you can go to my Tunnel review.
By clicking on my Man to Man review you can read about Park Sung-Woong, the man who brilliantly portrays Argos’ vice-president, Hwang Deuk-Gu. He really knows how to play a psychotic maniac! His loud, forced laughs and evil smiles are downright terrifying. Park Sung-Woo’s acting in this drama is right up there with Namgung Min’s in Remember, Shin Sung-Rok’s in Liar Game, and Heo Joon-Ho’s in Come and Hug Me. I hope he gets some kind of best villain award.
What exactly is Rugal? Well, it’s a national project/covert operation whose duty is “to help, and leave without a trace,” and only a tiny handful of people even know it exists. Rugal is run by Officer Choi Geum-Cheol who had been partnered with Mi-Na’s police officer father before he was murdered. He has been the director of Rugal since its conception and the organization means everything to him. There are three other people who work at Rugal – Doctor Oh, Bradley, and Susan who are a cross between computer geniuses, doctors, and scientists.
And what about Argos? Well, it’s a criminal organization that deals in murder, kidnapping, tax evasion, assault and battery, bribery, and embezzlement but hides behind legal businesses. When the chairman was murdered his young bride took over as the head of the organization. Although she’s ambitious, she isn’t psychotic like Hwang Deuk-Gu. There are several people who are leaders of their own area and each one is suspicious of the others. Argos is always one step ahead of the police.
While watching this drama I couldn’t help but think of these old 1970’s weekly TV shows my dad used to watch called The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. (You ought to check out the openings of those two shows on YouTube.) These Rugal members are just like Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers (the characters on the American shows). Because of accidents that left them nearly dead, the US government decided to secretly give them robotic parts which makes them super human and 100% invincible – perfect for fighting crime. Steve Austin had a robotic eye like Ki-Beom (although both his eyes are computerized) and Jamie Sommers had a robotic arm like Tae-Woong! Kind of funny I’d remember those super old shows. Thanks, Dad.
One of the best things about this drama is its action, which is right up there with the likes of Iris, Healer, and Vagabond. There are several fantastic fight scenes in every episode, each one being amazing and exciting. They reminded me a lot of the fighting in The Matrix movies – spins, flips, wire work and probably CGI, too. They’re excellent. Are they realistic? Heck no. But that’s part of what makes them so awesome – no real person could do the things these guys do, no matter how much they trained. The choreography is fresh and exciting (mainly because the folks that are fighting have super abilities) and it’s executed with precision and what seemed to be ease. Kudos to everyone involved in making these scenes so enthralling.
Aside from the few things that were never explained, this show is very well written, the directing is phenomenal, the plot is fresh, and the acting is superb. You can’t ask for much more than that.
So now I get to point out what I didn’t like about the show. There are a few little “oops”, some things about the storyline that are never explained, Choi Jin-Hyuk is given a silly haircut 3/4 of the way through the story (his bangs hang over one eye), and he wears eyeliner 95% of the time. I’m guessing it was applied to make his computer eyes stand out but I just thought it made him look strange. For Pete’s sake, makeup artists – don’t mess with perfection!
Most of the music is intense instrumental stuff designed to heighten the mood and escalate the suspense, and it does exactly that. The songs with lyrics are Never Cry, a fast and tense song sung by Han Seung-Hee; The Eye of Another, a quiet and slow song performed by Klazy; Lost Life, a rock ballad sung by Min Kyung-Hoon; and No Limit, a electric sounding song with some decent rapping, performed by the hip hop duo Taibian, featuring Klazy.
The settings in this show are excellent. The Rugal’s headquarters is a gigantic, modern building complete with tons of medical and mechanical equipment. I loved the rock walls that had plants in front of them – it brought some of the outside, inside. The secret laboratories run by Hwang Deuk-Gu are a reflection of the man’s dark insides – creepy and unsettling. Cement floors, plastic hanging from the ceiling in order to form walls, dim lighting, and tortured bodies everywhere – ick.
Those of you who enjoy action and crime shows are going to love Rugal. It’s definitely a science fiction Kdrama you won’t want to miss.
Awesome action/fight scenes
Background music compliments the scenes
Some elements of the story unexplained
Kang Ki-Beom’s eyeliner
A couple “oops”
May be too graphic/violent for some viewers