The Italian mafia’s consigliere grapples with a scheming conglomerate chairman and the corruption of the law in South Korea.
Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong Ki) is a Korean born orphan who becomes adopted by the Cassano Family in Italy. As a mafia member, Vincenzo takes on the role of legal advisor for the Cassanos known as consigliere, undertaking legal activities to benefit his family and performs his share of malevolent deeds. However, after the death of the head of the Csssano family, Vincenzo flees to South Korea in order to escape the deadly resentment of a fellow family member.
Despite his loyalty throughout the years, no one expected Vincenzo to have provided legal advice to a Chinese triad boss who stows away a fortune of gold in Seoul under Vincenzo’s guidance. Determined to claim the gold for himself, Vincenzo arrives at the inconspicuous rundown site, Geumga Plaza in a dilapidated part of Seoul city. It’s here that Vincenzo becomes embroiled in a land dispute with Babel, a conglomerate corporation controlled by Jang Han Seok (Ok Taecyeon) that could jeopardise his chances at obtaining gold but what he never bargained for, is cracking down on corruption by aiding lawyer Hong Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Been), and exacting vengeance à la mafia style.
There are a lot of characters involved so I’ll make everyone’s lives easier by simply focusing on the primary ones but that’s not to say secondary characters don’t play their part in contributing to the drama’s success and story. Geumga Plaza is made up of many characters and reflect Vincenzo forming his own mafia family on Korean soil, every member with a key role to play. In opposition to this, Wusang Law Firm and their dealings with the Prosecution, in order to conceal and assist Babel Group in its corruptive ascent also contains characters that add a layer to the story. It can seem messy and muddled at times, getting lost amidst the drama’s lighter tones and speediness but the drama eventually takes its time to highlight everyone’s merits or faults, really forming the foundations of a family bond that becomes irreplaceable.
Vincenzo is such a captivating antihero that you can never hate him even if he walks along the fringes of moral society. Song Joong Ki has brought back a bit of Ma Roo from The Innocent Man with less melodrama and more edge, giving us a memorable performance and for me personally, this has been my favourite role.
Vincenzo should be considered a sweeter and genteel version of a mafia member from The Godfather, his lines and mannerism more in tuned with the classic film in its depiction of ‘family’ and what it means to be a part of an organised crime group. There’s definitely a softness and good naturedness that gets coupled with a twisted sense of justice, making him an unforgettable character willing to play devil’s advocate if it means protecting the lives of victims or even dressing up and taking on multiple roles to dig up some valuable dirt on Babel. Seriously, the prettiest shaman and horseman I have ever seen.
Hong Cha Young
In contrast, Hong Cha Young is fierce and rambunctious, yet, meshes will with Vincenzo in exacting revenge. What’s fascinating about her character is that she’s never morally upright to begin with and has done dubious things prior to her fight against Babel. It’s her tendency to look the other way and recognise her position in a legally fragile world, that allows her to adapt to Vincenzo’s methods and in extension, to a mafia way of life.
The writers need to be applauded for finally giving us a female lead who isn’t a damsel in distress and one that can remain calm and collected even in the face of death or in the presence of a neurotic villain. As far as female leads go, Hong Cha Young is a gem that will be revisited and looked back on with nothing but admiration…even if she’s a tad frustrating in the beginning.
And let’s face it, we adore her because she doesn’t break done crying, becoming a blundering mess but weighs in heavily to taking down Babel. Unlike other female leads that were portrayed in dramas roughly around the same time…yeah I’m glaring at you Lady Lord (no offence…but offence) Hong Cha Young contained a lot of depth without her having to physically convey it while simultaneously giving us comedy gold.
Brothers Jang Han Seok and Jang Han Seo
Lastly, we have Jang Han Seok and his cronies that round up our pool of characters. As a grand puppet master with a streak of borderline sociopath, Jang Han Seok endeavours to control Babel without having to deal with corporate meetings or the public eye and instead, conceals his identity by placing his brother Jang Han Seo (Kwak Dong Yeon) as the face of the corporation. This of course, comes crashing down because of Vincenzo and Han Seok finds it amusing but he clearly has no idea that his blitz attacks and murderous streaks are nothing in comparison to a professional who kills not by mere instinct, but with tact.
I will say however, that there were two secondary characters that shone brightly and will remain lodged in my brain whenever I recall Vincenzo. First, Jang Han Seo because Kwak Dong Yeon gave a performance of a lifetime that really manifested the drama’s dark comedy and a redemption arch not present or even accessible for his older brother.
Ahn Ji Seok
Second, Ahn Ji Seok (Im Chul Soo) who brought us an endearing character that gave us an element that balanced out against the violence and darkness of the plot. As an agent of the Intelligent Service, he gave us wit and assistance but also plenty of laughs and became Vincenzo’s certified fanboy. Overall, there are simply so many people to love or hate…but mostly love in this series but despite this, they never impede on Vincenzo’s own presence and simply add something more and provide vivacity to his life since his character has the tendency to be somber and silent.
The drama is stylistic with glossy cinematography and a pace that can seem exceedingly fast but once you’re invested into the story and the plot laid out, it’s easy sailing from there…although frankly, the writers got me good with Inzaghi the pigeon turning out to be the real MVP. If you know, then you know.
I can make no comments on the Italian spoken but from what I’ve read, it’s passable if not the most fluent and the entire premise of Vincenzo being a part of the mafia should not be taken to heart since there are evident flaws from some of methods or how he reads Han Seok’s hand. Arguably, this makes Vincenzo more human since as the drama progresses, he has much more to lose than when he initially starts his battle with Babel and the loose strings are tied nicely and leave you speechless at the end. So all things considered, the drama knows what it’s doing.
On a personal note, Vincenzo has by far been my favourite K-drama series this year and I’ll admit to still trying to cope with the sense of loss. With unforgettable characters, dark comedy, and a legal thriller unlike any other, the series came for the jugular and slayed.
Release Date: February 20, 2021 (Eng Sub available on Netflix)