A ton and a half of hidden gold, a psychopathic CEO in charge of a corrupt company, and a convicted murderer dying of cancer – now throw in a mafia consigliere (advisor to the boss) who gets caught up in the whole thing and you have the captivating Kdrama Vincenzo.
Vincenzo Cassano’s mother left him at an orphanage when he was very young, promising she’d return. However, when that never happened he was adopted by a Mafia boss and taken to Italy where he grew up. He became a lawyer to the mafia and eventually the consigliere to the Cassano Family. He was approached by a Chinese mob boss who asked for help in hiding his massive wealth – 1.5 tons of gold. Vincenzo came up with the perfect plan – he purchased Geumga Plaza in South Korea and had a secret room built into the basement, and with iris recognition (the Chinese man’s iris) being the only way to open the vault, the man’s gold would be safer there than at Fort Knox.
Time passed and Vincenzo’s adopted father passed away, leaving the man’s biological son to run the organization in his stead. In a desperate attempt to get rid of Vincenzo, he decides to have him killed but Vincenzo leaves Italy and heads to South Korea, intending to help himself to the now-deceased Chinese man’s fortune. However, Vincenzo runs into a problem when a shady real estate company, owned by Babel Group, illegally takes ownership of the building and the residents there refuse to move out. It shouldn’t prove difficult for him to get Geumga Plaza back and entice the folks in the building to set up their businesses in a better spot but instead, all hell breaks loose and Vincenzo Cassano finds himself neck-deep in murder and mayhem the likes of which he could not have imagined. But this Korean evil has no idea who they’re up against.
Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, Vincenzo Cassano is intelligent, fearless, and damn-near invincible. He is a quiet man who prefers to keep a low profile. Vincenzo remains calm in even the most frightening situations and never raises his voice. He has a collection of gold-plated cigarette lighters and although he no longer smokes, he is never without one in his pocket. Clicking the lid up and down helps him think and it’s good to always have one on hand – just in case he encounters someone who needs a little persuading.
Hong Cha-Young became a lawyer like her father but took a different route than he did, choosing instead to join a humongous law firm and make lots of money. She enjoys the power she has in the company and flaunts her successes, which do not always come legally. She is tenacious and hates to lose, especially to her father.
There are lots of important supporting reoccurring characters…
Jipuragi Law Firm…
*Hong Yoo-Chan is a civil rights attorney and the CEO of Jipuragi Law Firm. He works within the law, simply wanting to help his clients receive justice. He has a strained relationship with his lawyer daughter, Hong Cha-Young, and doesn’t like the fact that she works for the corrupt Wusang Law Firm. He is also unhappy that she is solely in the legal profession for the money and praise it affords her.
*Nam Joo-Sung is the one and only paralegal at the firm. He is very close to Attorney Hong and continues to work for the man’s daughter when she quits Wusang and takes over her father’s firm.
*The owner and CEO of Babel Group is Jang Han-Seok. Running the company from behind the scenes, he placed his younger half-brother, Jang Han-Seo, in the company’s Chairman’s seat so that he wouldn’t be held legally responsible if things ever went wrong. Han-Seok spent time in the U.S. but is now back in Korea. No one knows who he is or what he looks like.
*Jang Han-Seo is Babel Group’s puppet Chairman whose strings are pulled by Han-Seok. He knows what his older brother is like and what he’s truly capable of and lives in fear of Han-Seok’s wrath. Han-Seo does his best to act the part of the capable leader of a tremendously large and wealthy company but he’s nothing more than a disposable pawn in his brother’s elaborate and selfish scheme.
Wusang Law Firm…
*Han Seung-Hyuk is the CEO of the corrupt Wusang Law Firm. His priority is wealth and status so he has no problem breaking the law to stay on top.
*Choi Myung-Hee had been a prosecutor but was scouted by Han Seung-Hyuk and is now the new Senior Partner at Wusang. She is the personal attorney for Babel Group and will stop short of nothing to keep in Jang Han-Seok’s good graces.
*Jang Jun-Woo is an intern at Wusang and Hong Cha-Young’s paralegal. He likes her and does his best to help make her job a bit easier.
Tenants of Geumga Plaza…
*Tak Hong-Shik is the single, middle-aged man that owns the laundromat/dry cleaner’s/tailor shop.
*Chef Toto is the owner and cook at the Italian restaurant. He has been successful in conning everyone but Vincenzo into believing he went to culinary school in Italy.
*Kwak Hee-Soo is a single mom who owns, and cooks, at a snack bar in the building. Her son, Kim Young-Ho, is slightly mischievous.
*Larry Kang is the owner of, and a teacher at, a dance studio. He sometimes supplies extras for movies.
*Seo Mi-Ri is the quiet gal who owns, and teaches at, the piano school. She falls for the handsome Vincenzo the minute she meets him.
*Lee Chun-Wook and his wife Jang Yeon-Jin own a pawnshop. Chun-Wook acts tough and fancies himself an amazing martial artist.
*Jang Yeon-Jin is loud and bossy. She loves her husband but has no problem challenging him which often leads to arguments between the couple.
*Jeokho is the senior monk of Nanak Temple.
*Chaeshin is the junior monk under him.
*Ahn Gi-Seo is a team leader in the International Security Intelligence Service. While undercover, he works for Chef Toto to secretly observe Vincenzo Cassano.
The Ants Gang/ByeBye Balloon…
*Park Seon-Do, the former leader of the Ants Gang, now owns ByeBye Balloon, a company that helps smuggle people out of Korea via hot air balloon.
*Jeon Soo-Nam was Park Seon-Do’s right-hand man in the Ants Gang. He now works for Seon-Do at ByeBye Balloon.
*Yang Joo-Eun was the accountant for the Ants Gang and is now doing the same job at ByeBye Balloon.
There is so much I could write about 35-year-old Song Joong-Ki, the handsome actor who plays the title character, Vincenzo Cassano, but because I don’t want to make this review overwhelmingly long I’ll just mention a few highlights. He has been Gallup Korea’s Actor of the Year twice and has been on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list three times. He competed at a national level in short track speed skating (we see him skate in Vincenzo) but because of an injury, he had to give it up when he entered high school. He graduated from Sungkyunkwan University with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Broadcasting. Although he was scouted while on the subway, it took him a few years before he entered the entertainment business. His breakout role came through the historical Kdrama Sungkyunkwan Scandal. He co-authored a book called Beautiful Skim Project (a beauty guide for men) which became a best seller. He married his Descendants of the Sun co-star, Song Hye-Kyo, but they divorced two years later. Song Joong-Ki is one of the highest-paid Korean actors in the business.
Jeon Yeo-Been, the actress who plays Attorney Hong Cha-Young, studied Broadcast Entertainment at Dongduk Women’s University. She entered the entertainment field in 2015 through the short film The Best Director and that same year she made her big-screen debut with a supporting role in the movie The Treacherous. She earned the 22nd Busan International Film Festival Actress of the Year Award and the 2017 Seoul Independent Film Festival Independent Star Award, both for her performance in the movie After My Death. Yeo-Been is 31-years-old.
It’s difficult to decently blend crime and comedy into a story (Psychopath Diary comes to mind) but once in a while we get lucky and Vincenzo’s writers, Park Jae-Bum and bc_emperor, balanced the two genres perfectly. With just the right amount of silliness put into just the right places, the goofy parts of the show serve to lighten what could have been a seriously dark 20-hour Kdrama, and gives us a reprieve, allowing us to wind down and breathe before we’re hit with another heavy scene. There doesn’t seem to have been any guesswork involved – the writers knew exactly what they were doing!
I was so relieved that, as the story progressed, the writers decided to not change who Vincenzo was. They didn’t turn him into something he wasn’t just to give us a warm and fuzzy ending. He remains a Batman-type character throughout the whole show.
The character growth of the Geumga Plaza tenants is superb. At the beginning of the story, they are individuals who are simply familiar with one another but by the time the show ends they are family. Although they all start out frail and intimidated, each one ends up strong and confident. Watching their transformations happen, a little at a time, is exciting. Another aspect of good writing.
A quick shout out to Kim Yeo-Jin for her portrayal of the power-hungry Choi Myung-Hee. Not since Song Yoon-Ah’s acting as the villainous Choi Yoo-Jin in The K2 have I seen an actress so convincingly play the part of a woman drenched in evil. It’s a performance worthy of a best villain award.
The action/fight scenes are wow, WOW and WOW! For a fight to look real there has to be precision on all sides – good stunt choreography, good acting, and good directing – and fortunately, this drama has all three! It packs quite a punch. Along those lines – I’ll let you know in advance that there are a few violent incidents that may give squeamish folks nightmares. Hey, the drama’s leading man works for the Mafia, (you know the Mafia, the folks who don’t think twice about torturing someone) and there are some really yucky torture scenes in this show. We don’t see things up close and personal as they happen, but we know exactly what’s going on anyway.
I want to talk for just a second about this drama’s hero and main villain (there’s a whole bunch of bad guys in this show). When it comes to the role of Vincenzo Cassano, Song Joong-Ki was a perfect choice. He presents himself equally well in the role of a lawyer as well as a gangster. In one quick instant his soft, kind look so easily morphs into something cold and unfeeling. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Vincenzo Cassano. Now, for the head bad guy – the character of Jang Han-Seok had the potential to be very unnerving but fell short, in my opinion, because of poor casting. I’ve had no complaints with Ok Taec-Yeon’s performances in other dramas I’ve seen him in (Let’s Fight Ghost, Save Me, Who Are You, Dream High, Touching You, and First Kiss For the Seventh Time) but, in my opinion, he wasn’t convincing as an evil, twisted psychopath. To me, it seemed like he was trying to mimic Namgung Min’s superb, award-winning performance in Remember, right down to the freakishly maniacal screams and violent outbursts, but it didn’t seem authentic to me. It was like he was just taking direction, not internalizing the character to make it his own.
The last episode of the drama recorded the highest rating overall which tells us that the show’s audience was interested enough in its characters to see what would happen to them. It might not have concluded the way some fans were hoping but I thought the wrap up was perfect!
As of today, Vincenzo holds the place of tvN’s sixth highest-rated drama and the ninth highest-rated drama in the history of Korean cable television. Quite an accomplishment and well deserved, indeed.
One of my favorite lines in the drama is when a character, referring to Jang Han-Seok, says, “He must think he’s a Kpop idol.” I’ll bet they added that to the script because the actor playing Jang Han-Seok IS a Kpop idol in real life. (Ok Taec-Yeon of 2PM.) Very clever.
There are some “oops,” like dropping an umbrella and not seeing it on the ground a couple of seconds later, a jacket that is thrown into a room but then isn’t there the next time the room is entered, a dead body on the floor that just disappears… things like that. They aren’t huge problems but you’ll notice them if you’re paying attention.
Vincenzo’s soundtrack is awesome! If real life had background music this is exactly how you’d expect a Mafia Consigliere’s life to sound! Is This Love is a sexy, slow jazz song, sung in English by Aalia. The song Ombra Mai Fu written by Andreas Scholl is opera-ish and very Mafia-like. We also get to hear Mozart’s Requiem Lacrimosa. It just screams Vincenzo Cassano! John Park sings, in English, I’m Always by Your Side. The song is slick and swanky. The song Adrenaline is sung twice, there’s one in Italian and another in English.
The main focus is, of course, Geumga Plaza. The fact that it’s not a fancy building, lets us know what kind of money the tenants have (just enough to get by). Nothing else stood out to me, which just served to help me focus on the story and not the surrounding areas.
If you haven’t already put Vincenzo on your Kdrama watch list I suggest you do that right away. This is one crime comedy you won’t want to miss.
“Even villains long to live in a peaceful world.” – Vincenzo
Song Joong-Ki’s acting is fantastic and 100% convincing
Great character growth in the Geumga Plaza tenants
Wonderful female evil character acting
Well placed/used comedy relief
Great action/fight scenes
Ok Taec-Yeon’s evil acting seemed disingenuous
A few parts might be considered gruesome for certain folks
Some minor “oops”