Bloodhounds are hunting dogs known for their keen sense of smell, but in this K-drama, it refers to thugs/killers who hunt down debtors for loan sharks. Set at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a heart-thumping and gripping eight-episode series that you will watch nonstop despite all the tension and hyperventilating.
Two robust rookie boxers establish a deep friendship. They are skilled and strong fighters with good hearts, and with the right moral compass. Both share their common experience and pride of having belonged to the Marine Corps in the military. Kim Gun-woo, played by Woo Do-hwan (the last time I saw him was in The King: Eternal Monarch), is inspired by Manny Pacquiao (Philippines, represent!) as a fighter because “he has a heart.” In fact, he became a boxer because of Pacquiao. His friend, Hong Woo-jin, acted by Lee Sang-yi (Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha), admires Floyd Mayweather because he approaches boxing “as a businessman.” Their personalities are very evident in their choice of “idols.” Gun-woo is a man of few words and respectful, while Woo-jin is more verbal and he is an extrovert.
The story centers around two loan sharks, namely Kim Myeong-gil and President Choi, played by versatile actors Park Sung-woong (Snowdrop), and Hu Joon-ho (Come and Hug Me). Kim Myeong-gil is ruthless and evil, so let’s call him the “bad loan shark.” While President Choi lends money to those who have sick family members, with zero interest. He is the “good loan shark.”
As the specter of COVID looms all over the country and people are having financial problems, loan sharks are making a killing. They prey on the weak. One of the victims of the “bad loan shark” is Gun-woo’s mom, who runs a café. She can’t pay her loan, unaware of its exorbitant interests. “Bad loan shark” sends his thugs, a.k.a. bloodhounds, to thrash her establishment and harass her. In comes Gun-woo, who puts up a good fight but is just outnumbered.
Aside from the numerous goons, the “bad loan shark” has a personal bodyguard, a huge, scary man who reminds me of Jaws, that giant henchman in the old James Bond movies. “Bad loan shark” sadistically slashes Gun-woo’s cheek and warns him to pay his mother’s debt, or else. His moneylending company is called Smile Capital, but there is really nothing to smile about. Seeing that his friend is very troubled about the situation, Woo-jin vows to help.
But first, a side story that will turn out to be an important event in the destruction of “bad loan shark”: Choi Si-won, pop star and real-life chaebol, plays Hong Min-beom, an arrogant chaebol heir, who plans to put up a luxury hotel. Short of funds, he borrows a big amount from “bad loan shark” in exchange for providing him with a casino for foreigners in the building. Little does he know he’s struck a deal with the devil. He ends up being tortured, humiliated, and gets entangled in blackmail.
There is no honor among thieves, as “bad loan shark” also preys on other moneylenders and their “clients” in elaborate scams. This is how “good loan shark” gets involved. Apparently, the two have a past together. “Good loan shark” wasn’t always good and “bad loan shark” worked for him. He retired from the business but “bad loan shark” stole from him and put him in a wheelchair. That was years ago, but now they have to face each other again and fight to the death. “Good loan shark” assembles his past bloodhounds and henchmen. His answer to scary Korean Jaws is a killer sushi chef, who cleanly cuts open his opponents. Among his team are Gun-woo and Woo-jin, who applied to be bodyguards for his granddaughter. In an “it’s a small world” coincidence, the two friends are also after “bad loan shark” for what he did to Gun-woo and his mom. So they join forces.
Gripping fight scenes ensue with kontrabidas clad in all-black, carrying pipes, knives, and cleavers, who go at it with President Choi’s (good loan shark) superior skilled killers. The fight scenes are on another stress level, and no one is spared or treated with kid gloves. It is showdown upon showdown.
Gun-woo and Woo-jin are excellent fighters using their boxing skills, and beneath all this is their grit and determination to see the downfall of “bad loan shark.” Aside from all the violence and darkness, though, are tender and touching moments between families and the two friends. There’s a soft side to the drama.
Underneath it all, Bloodhounds is really about the bond of loyal friendships, love of family, and justice for the weak.
Bloodhounds is based on a webcomic written by Jung Chan, with direction and screenplay by Kim Joo-hwan. It premieres on Netflix on June 9.