Action hero meets sleeping beauty

The Gang Doctor's Joo Won and Kim Tae Hee.
The Gang Doctor's Joo Won and Kim Tae Hee.PHOTO: ONE
Kim Hee Ae plays a detective and mother in Mrs Cop.
Kim Hee Ae plays a detective and mother in Mrs Cop.PHOTO: ONE

Just like My Love From The Star, The Gang Doctor revolves around a guy saving a girl

For more than a year, South Korean television producers had a My Love From The Star-sized problem to solve.

How were they to replicate the insane success of the 2014 sci-fi romance without cloning the show?

HB Entertainment, producer of My Love, may have cracked the code with its latest, The Gang Doctor.

The hospital thriller, which is one of the year's most viewed dramas in South Korea, has little in common with My Love at first blush.

It hits the ground running with its title hero (Joo Won), a third-year resident at a private hospital, trekking to a warehouse under the cover of night to make a call in his lucrative, illegal sideline as a surgeon to gangsters.

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But before you can judge him, the show goes all out to assure you of his extreme goodness: His sister is dying and he has run up debts to keep her alive.

A committed doctor, he refuses to abandon his patients and will jump off a bridge with a bleeding crime boss before the police can arrest them both.

The heroine (Kim Tae Hee), an heiress, is being held in a chemically induced coma in a posh maximum-security pad on the five-star floor of the hospital.

She is a VIP and a prisoner, surrounded by the lackeys of her brother (Jo Hyun Jae), including a spineless surgeon and a wild-eyed nurse.

Here is where the My Love formula kicks in. That show was not so much a love story as a rescue story, with an actress as a designer-clad damsel in distress and an alien as her gravity-defying knight in shining armour.

Equally, Joo Won's doctor in this drama is a preposterously perfect match for Kim's sleeping beauty. She clearly needs saving and he's evidently her man.

He is tested as an all-round action hero, acing a car chase here and stopping a nuclear crisis there. Then he is lured into a job in Kim's VIP suite, where he has to rescue her so that the show can bring on more elaborately desperate action sequences.

The drama is quite a romp, really, evoking the joy of Hong Kong action cinema. It is crowded with scheming tycoons, lithe femme fatales, armed goons and nice gangsters, who all cross paths in not-so-expected ways in the hospital on the day Joo Won hopes to sneak Kim out.

Now and then, things grind to a halt for the pair to get down to actual romantic business, which is the least believable bit of the show.

Honestly, how did they find the time to fall in love?

And a chaste kiss in church is such a snooze, although you understand. He is going easy on a patient who has come out of a coma, isn't he?

Well, it is a chance to catch your breath before the show gets your adrenaline going again.

I'm understanding and I accept that the smartest detective dramas have silly days (Sherlock has so-so episodes such as The Blind Banker).

But Mrs Cop is rather a slouch. The Korean show asks a couple of good questions about policing and parenting: Can a woman (Kim Hee Ae) be a great detective and a good mum? What can she bring from each of the roles to the other? Is it empathy? Is it attention to detail?

Then it sweeps the theme under the carpet and transforms into a regular police procedural, one that doesn't even work hard to stay ahead of viewers.

A child is left in a car in a building where a serial killer has been spotted. Guess what's next?

Runaway teen girls are turning up dead in scenarios out of a video game, but the police don't see it, even after studying a series of eerily similar video game designs.

Kim's Mrs Cop is a fine detective with a heart of gold and sharp instincts.

She also seems to be too good for the show, which kills so many young women so wantonly that it stinks of exploitation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Action hero meets sleeping beauty'. Print Edition | Subscribe