Song of the Bandits Review: Compelling Fight for Freedom Combines Classic Western Showdowns With Character-Driven Kdrama Sensibility

Song of the Bandits Review: The South Korean action period drama series (도적 칼의 소리) releasing on Netflix on September 22, 2023, stars Kim Nam-gil as Lee Yoon, Seohyun as Nam Hee-shin, Yoo Jae-myung as Choi Choong-soo, Lee Hyun-wook as Lee Gwang-il and Lee Ho-jung as Eon Nyeon-i in lead roles. Written for screen by Han Jeong-hoon and directed by Hwang Jun-hyeok, the series has been developed by the South Korean drama production company Studio Dragon.

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Comprising of 9 episodes with each of their runtime ranging between 48-69 minutes, the show is now streaming with English subtitles for international audiences along with English, Hindi and more dubbed audio also available to make it more accessible for a wide variety of viewers.

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Song of the Bandits Kdrama Review Contains No Spoilers

Song of the Bandits Netflix Synopsis

Fierce bandits roam around the lawless land of Gando, and their fight of life and death, they will do whatever it takes to protect their dear homeland and loved ones. The show is set in 1920s, when the people of Joseon were at the mercy of the Japanese occupation. As many Koreans are ripped off their right to their land and lives, a group of outcasts, all with different stories and hailing from disparate backgrounds, heads to Gando as a united front to protect the homeland of Koreans.

Song of the Bandits Review: Discussion

Following the general trend of why K-dramas have become such a massive hit among netizens, Songs of the Bandits follows a character-driven narrative, at the centre of which, an ensemble cast is not only leading an uprising as stated in the previously narrated and foregrounded history of Korea’s Japanese occupation, but is also introducing us to fictional characters fuelled by realistic individual humane arcs. From the onset itself, the series establishes its world-building practice with the most top-notch sense of visual storytelling, presenting the image of a sandy Western genre landscape with the heart of an Eastern sensibility as charted in characteristics of Korean period dramas.

Song of the Bandits Review: Kim Nam-gil and Yoo Jae-myung
Kim Nam-gil and Yo Jae-myung

Immaculately, the series sets the tone for the socio-political unrest at the beginning, with the subsequent episodes maintaining the same well-paced narrative. Despite it being a long-ish title with 9 episodes under its name, the show never languishes or falls apart in terms of retaining the established balance between the entertainment factor set forth with action sequences and the emotional connect with the characters leading the action in place.

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Moreover, the well-choreographed scenes, though almost always figure in the utilisation guns and other weapons (like in the Western action genre) that don’t necessarily need opponents to run closer to each other, still call for an intimate interaction between the two parties engaging in the action at hand. Other than the overall political upheaval having pushed families of innocent citizens into displacement, thus snatching away the link between their personal identity and their land and culture, the show also consistently questions the play of moral conflict.

Song of the Bandits Review: Lee Ho-jung and Kim Nam-gil
Lee Ho-jung and Nam-gil

It doesn’t delve into a binary Good Vs Bad bifurcation of its characters despite the theme being inspired by the classic Western genre of films that overtly announce this divide in its characters’ conscience early on and base their plot on the extension of the same theme. Instead, even though Song of the Bandits series does introduce a visual stark difference in the Korean uprising Vs the Japanese occupation divide, it still brings in narratives of morally grey characters who’ve been victims of their traumatic pats, thus, in turn stimulating sympathy for them.

Kim Nam-gil effortlessly takes the lead in well-balanced roster of cast members who helm this fusion of the Wester-Eastern action drama. Overtly, he’s supposed to share romantic chemistry of sorts with Seohyun’s Hee-shin, but rather ends up striking an even multi-faceted, chaotic and banterous dynamic with Lee Ho-jung’s Eon Nyeon-i, which will especially keep you on your toes in the latter episodes driven by powerhouse face-offs. Plus, the tumultuous camaraderie eventually struck between the group of bandits and other supporting characters played by Cha Chung-hwa, Cha Yeop, Kim Do-yoon and others keeps the fun alive while Hyun-wook and Seohyun’s characters indulge into tense emotional drama.

Song of the Bandits Review: Seohyun and Lee Hyun-wook
Seohyun and Lee Hyun-wook

Song of the Bandits Netflix Series: Final Thoughts

Despite the overt looks of an olden storyline, the seamless Western inspiration of action sequences in the narrative, the series also takes on a modern transformation unlike other common and classic examples of Korean period dramas. Moreover, the action is never pushed as a disjoint addition to the show because its inherently associated with the ethnic turbulence of the times.

All 9 episodes of the Korean drama are now streaming on Netflix.

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