Bloodhounds isn’t a knockout, but it’s a capable and exciting action extravaganza with likeable characters and some great set-pieces.
This review of the Netflix K-Drama series Bloodhounds Season 1 does not contain spoilers.
Nobody has forgotten about the Covid-19 pandemic yet, have they?
Let’s assume not, since contemporary media won’t allow you to. Bloodhounds, a Netflix K-Drama based on the webtoon Sanyanggaedeul by Jung Chan, isn’t just set in the dark days of 2020 and its lockdowns but is heavily informed by the repercussions of that global public health calamity to an extent that it literally couldn’t exist in this form without the pandemic.
You can understand why that might turn people off. Despite a fair amount of comedy and even the odd bit of silliness, Bloodhounds is about fundamentally ordinary people who have had their livelihoods decimated by circumstances outside of their control. It’s about dreams being derailed by the shuttering of live events and predatory moneylenders who exploit people at their lowest, most desperate ebb.
Bloodhounds Season 1 review and plot summary
But Bloodhounds is also about the fast friendship between Gun-woo (Woo Do-hwan) and Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yi), former Marines turned talented boxers who meet during a crowd-less boxing tournament and immediately bond. There’s a lot of positivity in this relationship, which plays out like a meet-cute, and both boys, while obviously very different, have charming personalities and solid sets of values that help to give Bloodhounds a more hopeful tint.
The series spares no sympathy for the shylocks who con struggling everyday people into crippling loans – everyday people including Gun-woo’s mother, which brings her son and his friend into the world of illicit moneylending, first to pay off her debt and then for revenge against Smile Capital, the business that tricked her, smashed up her shop and disfigured her son.
Gun-woo and Woo-jin enter the employ of President Choi (Huh Joon-ho), a well-meaning billionaire philanthropist, as bodyguards for his adoptive granddaughter, Hyeon-ju (Kim Sae-ron), a no-nonsense rebellious type who – wouldn’t you know it? – has been conducting her own investigations into Smile Capital and its silver-tongued scar-faced leader, Kim Myeong-gil (Park Sung-woong).
The plot described above is largely the only plot Bloodhounds has. It doesn’t get more complicated from there, so across eight episodes, all clocking in at an hour or longer, there’s often a sense of filling up the time with long scenes of male bonding or yet another exploitative boardroom negotiation to reiterate obvious points about the characters.
You can decipher everything you need to know about the leads, for example, by their fighting styles in the boxing match where they first meet. And yet they still have several long-winded conversations about their lives which feel like telling when all the showing has already been done. It isn’t ideal for pacing.
Is Bloodhounds good or bad?
But it’s also not the point. Bloodhounds lives and dies on its action. Most episodes include at least a couple of cool set pieces – everything from fisticuffs to car chases, and the choreography is very good at worst and sometimes even exceptional. Gun-woo and Woo-jin utilize superior skill in a recognizable art form to fight back against overwhelming numbers, and you can tell that attention has been paid to the technical credibility of these sequences. You can imagine boxing gym sign-ups skyrocketing after this.
Whether you consider this enough on a storytelling level will obviously depend on your preferences. I’m a sucker for good action, so I mostly found Bloodhounds enjoyable, even if I can acknowledge it’s much too long – those eight episodes could have been condensed into a feature film easily – and a little overly obvious in its post-pandemic social commentary.
Is Bloodhounds worth watching?
Some won’t like it. Some won’t want what it offers. That’s always true, of course, but it seems more so here in a series that rather proudly doesn’t have the wide-ranging mass-market appeal of something like Squid Game. It’s exciting instead of complex and visceral instead of emotional. That might not constitute a total knockout, but it’ll carry you for a few rounds if you get on its level.
What did you think of Netflix K-Drama Bloodhounds Season 1? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.