Vincenzo - Netflix's wild and absorbing show ends on troubling note


We all love a good David-versus-Goliath story. Few things are as satisfying as seeing a righteous underdog beat the odds as they stand up to, and take down, a once-mighty foe.

Vincenzo has given us a lot of underdogs to root for, starting with the stalwart Jipuragi Law Firm and stretching through to the other colourful residents of Geumga Plaza.

On the other side of the spectrum, the main villains have been the powerful Babel Corporation and the slimy Wusang Law Firm, paving the way for the former’s unchecked malfeasance.

But what of Vincenzo himself, the knight in shining armour who comes to the aid of Jipuragi and the Geumga residents? Vincenzo Casano is a consigliere for the Italian mafia.

He’s handy with his fists and a gun and uses his wits to outfox his enemies, but rarely stops there, as he most often goes so far as to extract his pound of flesh from his enemies.

Vincenzo has been presented as an ambiguous figure throughout the series. He kills for vengeance and covets for his own greed. He is honourable but not above playing as dirty as, or sometimes worse than, his adversaries.

And yet, Vincenzo is played by Song Joong-ki, the ultimate Korean heartthrob . The character is humanised by Song’s expressive eyes, and his penchant for violence is veiled by his dapper appearance, smooth gait and incredible good looks.

Violence is a key ingredient of any gangster tale, the gnarlier the better, so as to provide a chilling undercurrent to the slick suits and chummy camaraderie we love to lose ourselves in.

This show is no different and, amid the pratfalls, elastic faces and goofy dances, blood spouts with unusual force for a K-drama.

Vincenzo doesn’t shy away from the reality of its central character’s profession and his bloodlust, but it also wants us to champion him.

The Geumga residents fall into the cult of Vincenzo and, after gaining his approval, don’t so much as bat an eye when he blows someone up in a conference room.

Love interest and confederate Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-bin) is the only one to react, and even she just betrays the briefest flicker of concern.

Around three-quarters of the way through, the endgame was already in focus and by this point it was clear that Babel and Wusang were no match for Vincenzo, not least to the villains themselves.

The show ceased to be a David-versus-Goliath story and turned into a slowburn tale of vengeance, not unlike the K-thriller I Saw the Devil , about an agent who tortures his fiancée’s killer for the duration of the narrative.

Yet that film was a moral morass about a man who lost his humanity, while Vincenzo still motors towards a happy ending. He viciously tortures and kills his enemies, doesn’t repent and then finds true love’s kiss in the final scene.

For the most part, the uncomfortable balancing act between the show’s bubbliness and cynicism doesn’t pose a major barrier to being able to enjoy it. Vincenzo ’s many amusing digressions and its caricatured supporting characters ably saw to that.

As the “Cassano” group in Geumga solidified, we became more invested in their (mis)adventures, while the dastardly machinations of the oily Jang Joon-woo (Ok Taec-yeon), the vicious Choi Myung-hee (Kim Yeo-jin) and the sycophantic Han Seung-hyuk (Jo Han-chul) kept the tug of war between the two sides tense.

There was comedy, emotion and thrills throughout, as we slalomed through a story doted with craters of despair and peaks of Schadenfreude.

Vincenzo is a potpourri of gangster saga, legal thriller, romantic drama, slapstick comedy and much else besides, but while that manic blend of styles took some getting used to, as the show grew in confidence it was this unwieldy mix itself that became its raison d’être.

Yet in the series’ closing brace of episodes, as he meted out his final retribution, Vincenzo’s cruelty tipped over into sadism and offset what had been an irreverent balance up until then.

Viewers still got the ending they were probably hoping for, but the bitter taste that came with it may have come as a surprise.

Intentionally or not, Vincenzo has continually scoffed at jurisprudence and painted anyone in a position of public or corporate power as deceitful. We root for the little people and excuse their sidestepping the law, but their lack of morality seems to be excused given their circumstances.

The dog-eat-dog picture the series paints of the world isn’t a very flattering one, but a flash of Song Joong-ki’s winning smile is, supposedly, all it takes to wash away those faint pangs of conscience tickling our insides.

Vincenzo is streaming on Netflix.
Vincenzo - Netflix's wild and absorbing show ends on troubling note Vincenzo - Netflix's wild and absorbing show ends on troubling note Reviewed by Bears on May 19, 2021 Rating: 5