Voice Beyond good and evil

Crime procedural dramas are like ice cream and fries, grape jam on scrambled eggs, or any other peculiar food combinations the human mind can conjure. While therein lies the recurring question on whether it’s all easy to stomach, it is often the case where those who went for the first bite never quite looked back.

In recent years, the K-drama landscape has notably steered away from plain ol’ rom-com, to bolder and edgier territories that engage viewers at an unprecedented level. From critically acclaimed TEN, to Signal that was inspired by a series of grisly rapes and murders, stylish crime procedurals have clearly established their spot in the scene.

Orion Cinema Network (OCN)’s latest mystery thriller series, Voice, is both disturbing and gripping in a strangely captivating manner. The 16-episode flick is centered on an emergency call center’s response time to callers facing impending danger. According to International police standards, the first ten minutes of an emergency call is considered the golden window to save a victim’s life. Hence, the Golden Time Team, helmed by fallen detective Moo Jin-Hyuk (Jang Hyuk) and voice profiler Kang Kwon-Joo (Lee Ha-na) makes it their mission to arrive at a crime scene within three minutes and apprehend the criminal within 10 minutes.

Every episode is an anxiety-inducing race that keeps one on the edge of their seat, desperate to know what’s next. After all, how many detectives can solve a case in one day, much less 10 minutes?

“When there is no imagination, there is no horror.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

I have to admit that it wasn’t an easy decision to start on the episodes. Unlike other times where my concerns would revolve around a series’ ability to pack a punch, I had zero qualms about Voice’s intensity. With all the online talks about its hardcore guns, blades, punches and blood, I had a serious debate with myself if this drama would permanently scar my psyche.

It certainly didn’t help that the drama was submitted for Korea’s censorship board review halfway through the series, resulting in OCN amending the ratings from the original of 15+ to 19+ for episodes 11, 12 and 16.

“Why did still you watch it then?” Well, shit might have gotten real but just so you know, a 21st century young adult’s vulnerability to FOMO is not fictitious too. Also, I’ve come to learn that regrets are some of the most underrated things in life.

As fortune would have it, Voice turned out to be a pleasant surprise. And of the many ways, one has to be its realistic and impressive approach towards the showdown between good and evil.

“it’s impressive how the series never rested on mere grit or intensity, bringing in smart characters without being too preachy about the hero/villain dichotomy.”

With both protagonists losing their loved ones to the psycho-villain they’re trying to nab, I couldn’t help but partake in their unresolved grief and cheer intently each time the duo came closer to redressing justice.

While the series could have fared better with its tracking shots and developed the supporting roles as the series progressed,  the storyline held up in a fairly well developed manner. Plot holes remain, albeit few and far between, along with a number of truly bewildering scenes involving the detectives. Nevertheless, these can be overlooked if a choice is made to focus on the thrill derived from the series.

What about the main characters, you ask? We HAVE TO talk about them – especially Jang Hyuk.

Image credits: HanCinema

Fans would know that the seasoned actor has earned a reputation of being one of the best in the industry, backed by his lengthy repertoire of films and dramas. It’s tough to re-imagine Jun Ji-hyun’s shy and sensitive first love in Windstruck (2004) as an intense police officer with a tragic past, but guess what? He nailed it and KICKED SO MUCH ASS. Throughout the series, Jang Hyuk‘s martial arts moves were unmatched in realism

Jang Hyuk’s martial arts moves are unmatched in prowess — the best part being that there wasn’t a stunt double for most of his action scenes (!!!!!). Also, the actor’s consistently brilliant acting has aptly revealed the wide range of pain-driven emotions within Detective Moo. I am impressed beyond measure.

Image credits: HanCinema

Casting Lee Ha-na as the female lead was also pretty well played, imho. While I’ve never really been a fan, I have to say that the actress’ role has taken a front seat in the drama as the one leading the officers to solve every case. I loved how we were led to underestimate her character at every turn, till circumstances demanded for a display of her incredible hearing prowess and/or amazing martial arts skills. Mad props to Lee Ha-na for her truly unleveled conscientiousness as well, because how many actresses would go as far as engaging a news anchor for help to perfect her lines?

All in all, it’s impressive how the series never rested on mere grit or intensity and has brought in smart characters without being too preachy about the hero/villain dichotomy. My only gripe has to be the silly production errors and cliche side stories that were seemingly pieced by convenient afterthoughts. While Voice had great moments, a little more ambition wouldn’t have hurt.

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