Vincenzo is one of the most hyped Korean dramas of 2021.
Many people I follow have been talking about it, and my expectations for the drama were quite high. I expected an action drama with some thriller and romance. I was right, but also very wrong.
Note: This is a negative review and if you can’t take that, click away.
what is Vincenzo about?
- 1 what is Vincenzo about?
- 2 my thoughts on the drama
- 2.1 the overall plot: +2
- 2.2 the sensationalism of mafia: -2
- 2.3 the episode length: -1
- 2.4 the mockery of law: -1
- 2.5 the direction: -2
- 2.6 the characters: 0
- 2.7 the villains: +3
- 2.8 the action: 0
- 2.9 the comedy: 0
- 2.10 tell > show: -2
- 2.11 the concept of justice: +1
- 2.12 the soundtrack: -1
- 2.13 the romance: -1
- 2.14 the repetitive use of plot devices: -2
- 3 the characters
- 4 discussion (INCLUDES SPOILERS)
- 5 overall
The drama follows Vincenzo Cassano, an Italian mafia consigliere, who returns to Korea after his boss dies. He returns for a few months with the plan of getting some hidden gold and then going away.
His plan gets sidetracked when he becomes involved in the fight against Babel, a very corrupt group of companies. He ends up representing and helping a ragtag group of people living in Geumga Plaza with the help of Hong Cha-Young, a Korean lawyer.
The drama pits villains against villains in a world where justice does not exist and the law is not enough. There is action, thrill, drama, and comedy with a large cast.
my thoughts on the drama
I have a TON to say, but I want to quantify how I feel about every aspect, so I’m going to do this review in points.
the overall plot: +2
The main plot of villain-turned-unlikely-hero fighting against a powerful corporation and bonding with people he wouldn’t have cared about otherwise was great.
While that storyline was always in focus, there were multiple smaller overlapping threads that made things more interesting. All the characters had their own agenda which was realistic and well done.
The drama is clearly plot-driven, though. While characters have selfish goals which complicate things, the story never felt character-driven. Everything was done for the plot and in order to create chaos. Some things were obviously put in just to further the story.
the sensationalism of mafia: -2
This is a huge pain point for me. The concept of the mafia was so clearly sensationalised, and even romanticized at some parts, that it made me uncomfortable.
They took something from another country and culture and made an entire drama around what they liked, but they did not even use it right.
Anything that Vincenzo did was deemed to be “the way of the mafia” even though native Koreans were doing the same things. Plus, a lot of what he did were PRANKS. LITERAL PRANKS. Others were normal villain-y things. Barely anything was mafia-esque but they threw around the word so much, you’d assume they’re being paid for every mention.
The mafia members are reduced to “pranksters” in this drama while also being used to show that Koreans are just as scary. You can’t do both!
There was this one scene that made me very icky. They mentioned how the mafia throws pig’s blood on the rival family’s new boss as an intimidating welcome present, which some characters are disgusted by. Then Vincenzo pours pig’s blood on their rival later. First of all, that’s not even a real fact. Second, using that image of the mafia clearly shows what they think of the Italian mafia.
Using a made-up fact of something very real (and scary) in order to provide a “punchy scene”* did not sit right with me.
*The scene was not punchy enough, by the way. They couldn’t even get that right.
the episode length: -1
Each of the 20 episodes is close to 90 minutes long. One would think that a drama would be given that much airtime because it is really needed but that is not the case.
One of the reasons why I love Kdramas so much is because they manage to fit in a LOT in (generally) 16 or 20 hours. A LOT happens in an hour, and it doesn’t feel that long.
With Vincenzo, I felt every single minute. And I felt every minute that I wasted on this drama. It had no business being 80 minutes long. It did not have the content for it. Many scenes were stretched and made slow in order to take up more watch time.
Almost every episode had filler scenes as well. Ones that contributed nothing to the overall plot. They were not even funny enough to be considered as comedic breaks. One of the things that I hate the most is watching utterly useless scenes.
the mockery of law: -1
This is a personal thing. I like courtroom scenes and the manipulation of the law to get an outcome. I love seeing law and its loopholes being used to defeat opponents.
I was expecting some of that because four of the main characters were literally lawyers. But this drama threw the concept of law out of the window. They did not use it at all. It was there as a small annoying and ignorable factor, which could be brought up whenever they wanted a face-off. Everyone was a thug and no law was used.
It was ignored for the most part, but it was mocked in some parts. They made a very prominent court hearing into a joke. I understand that it was the intention in order to show something, but it just showed Vincenzo and team as pranksters instead of smart people.
I was very disappointed.
the direction: -2
The drama would have benefited so much from better direction. It was bad.
Every action drama has these prominent scenes with perfect music where the main characters walk with purpose or show up out of nowhere, or they suddenly beat the opponent. This drama tried to do those scenes in all the wrong times. Every time it happened, it was NOT prominent, hence making that scene totally useless. There was no punch to them, and hence they were underwhelming.
The direction was also bad in other places but this made me the most disappointed because prominent punchy scenes are the lifeblood of action and villainy dramas. And here they were stale.
the characters: 0
While I liked some of the cast, I HATED the main two characters. Vincenzo and Hong Cha-young were so disappointing. What a waste of airtime and talent. The actors deserve much more than these shoddy one-dimensional characters who play pranks most of the time. (Will talk more in-depth about them in a separate section for characters.)
One reason why I say this show is plot-driven even though every character’s agenda makes a difference is that every character was one-dimensional. Every single one of them. None of them had depths or layers. They were not fleshed out enough.
It was like they paired each name with one characteristic(and a few with surprises) and ran with it. Only ONE character showed a little bit of depth (more on this in the spoilers section) but the rest were surface-level.
Due to this, the main cast was disappointing. But the supporting cast was really good. The drama has a big supporting cast and they understood the assignments and played their parts well. Especially characters that had secrets and surprises. Loved them. They had more going on for themselves than the main cast.
the villains: +3
The heroes were dim but the villains shone brightly. Yes, they were also one-dimensional BUT they played their parts really well. They were convincing and riveting to watch.
The casting for the two main villains was top notch. They took the character and became them so well that I did not see the actors behind it all. I have seen one of them in another drama playing a very different role, but it did not cross my mind even once. I only saw the character on screen.
The main villain was so good. The motivation, the greed, the cleverness, the evilness, the mastery—it came together so well. He had minimal backstory but it was used properly which made the character better.
the action: 0
I generally don’t like action but considering it’s one of the few good things about this show, I appreciated it. The fighting, the ruthlessness etc. on both sides were good (when they were actually used instead of pranks).
BUT for an action show, it does not have enough action. A lot of it was just comedy.
the comedy: 0
For a drama that was trying to be serious a lot, it was not serious at all. If I had to categorize it, Vincenzo would be a comedy. The comedic aspects were given more focus and were present more often. So of course it completely changed the whole vibe of the show.
I’m giving this 0 points because while the comedy was good, it was overdone.
The drama tried to do multiple things instead of properly focusing on one. Very few things came out as intended. It is part action, part comedy, part randomness. I do not want to classify a lot of the pranks under comedy because they were supposed to be “serious” scenes, but did not execute well. And they weren’t funny enough to laugh at too. They neither had a punch, nor a punchline.
tell > show: -2
Vincenzo did more telling than showing and I HATED that. They specifically tell everything that they want us to think instead of showing it well. That showed how the content was not good enough to make the reviewers infer from the scenes alone. Even the creators thought so.
Instead of showing us how great Vincenzo is or how good they were at something, they directly told it. That defeated the purpose. I would have rather inferred something else entirely instead of being told something that I can’t believe.
There was this one scene where the supporting cast spent 5 minutes just praising Vincenzo for doing a ton of things and bringing them together etc. And it was the most telling scene because they had to tell that instead of making the audience realize themselves. The actors clearly found it weird too because it was pretty awkward.
the concept of justice: +1
One theme of the overall plot is that sometimes the law is not enough to bring about justice, especially against very powerful people. At those times we need others who also take things into their own hands and don’t care about the law.
That was quite nice because I agree with that. There is too much corruption for the law to take care of everything. Especially when the law enforcers are corrupted too.
the soundtrack: -1
Kdramas generally have really good OSTs but Vincenzo had such a bad OST. The songs that were noticeable were Italian opera music and they didn’t fit with the scenes or the direction. No Korean song was prominent.
A soundtrack can make or break a drama and the creators of this drama went for a “cool idea” instead of seeing if it actually works. Playing Italian opera music sounds like a good idea but it didn’t work a lot of the time. I was very disappointed.
the romance: -1
While I am a huge romance fan, I don’t mind it when entertainment media don’t have a romance. It’s better to have no romance than have a bad one. It’s especially better to not have a romance if it means other areas would fare better with extra attention.
Vincenzo toed the line of having a romantic prospect but not having a proper romance. It gave us hints here and there but there was nothing definite out of it. I get what they were trying to do but it wasn’t done well.
It felt like they were trying to please everybody and failed on all accounts.
If you’re planning on watching this drama, don’t go in expecting a good romance. I saw someone praising the romance in this drama and I feel betrayed.
the repetitive use of plot devices: -2
This was SO ANNOYING. It’s like the writers really liked this one plot device and inserted it everywhere. It worked a couple of times in the beginning but after that, it did not hit at all. I almost expected it towards the end.
The plot device that I’m talking about is one where something bad is happening and there’s a time jump where things surprisingly work out. And then we see flashbacks of how that sudden win occurred.
When it is used too much, it simply doesn’t hit anymore. It becomes boring. This plot device was there in almost every episode, and I counted it being present THRICE in one of the episodes.
That was just bad writing, honestly.
I’m keeping this section because I want to talk in-depth about our two main characters. My thoughts on the rest are already mentioned in the previous section.
Vincenzo was abandoned by his mother at a young age and was adopted by Italians. But they were killed after which he joined the mafia and became a ruthless consigliere.
Since he’s the #1 character, he does have more airtime and focus than others. His character was also worked on better. BUT, it wasn’t enough. I’ve seen dramas with supporting characters that are better formed than Vincenzo.
One thing that really irked me was how they had a plot device that could have added depth to his character but it was used only for the plot. It wasn’t used to show his character more. What a waste.
His past was brought up but it wasn’t delved into at all. His past was almost non-existent except to tell some things like how ruthless he is or how he is a wounded soul. Vincenzo also reacted more than he acted, which is a big reason why this drama is plot-driven. The main character is dragged around by the plot.
The drama is named after him so it’s not surprising that some scenes were literally homages to Vincenzo, but it was still pretty tacky. He got so many special entrances for no reason and they weren’t even done well. The first episode especially brought it on strong.
Hong Cha-young is one of the most disappointing main leads I have seen. She had so much potential and all of it was WASTED. She was badass, was confident, had a soft side too—but nothing was done with those characteristics.
The writers made her a good enough character to be paired with Vincenzo but made it clear that Vincenzo is the star. He was always better than her. She was never given a chance to truly shine. Cha-young was always a sidekick. Even when she said she will do things, Vincenzo swooped in and stole the show. It was so damn annoying.
Hong Cha-young was also a very one-dimensional character. Her past was referred to a couple times but never delved into. We saw that she is not on good terms with her father but never saw anything on how that came to be. We were just given facts with a couple extra titbits with zero exploration into anything.
discussion (INCLUDES SPOILERS)
If you don’t want to get spoiled, click here to skip to the “overall” concluding section.
I have many different thoughts so I’ll do it in shorts:
- The only thing that I LOVED was the villain reveal. Jang Jun-woo turning out to be Jang Han-seok was the only part that I loved in the show. When that happened, I was like “ok this drama is getting interesting!” but unfortunately that was the peak. But yeah, his entrance and the reveal was A+.
- My favourite character was Ahn Gi-seok. I loved his character. He was properly comedic, made me laugh multiple times, and was great even during serious scenes. His reveal when he bailed Vincenzo out using his authority was so nice. Better than any of Vincenzo’s reveals.
- I really hated how Vincenzo’s mother was kept on stand-by throughout the series until when they wanted Vincenzo to go unhinged. She was so clearly a plot device. We had so many useless scenes where they simply visited her and included zero progress. So annoying, ugh. I didn’t even care when she was killed because it was so obviously a plot device. She was used to make Vincenzo finally step over the edge and properly go after Babel since it is personal now.
- There was definitely an out-of-ordinary relationship between Jang Han-seok and Choi Myung-hee. It’s not a romantic relationship, but neither is it a business relationship. It’s a little like the relationship between a king and his Hand or king and first knight. The loyalty, the trust, the bond formed through ambition and how far they will go to get what they want—all that made for a unique relationship that I have not seen in other dramas. I would love to analyze it further honestly but I won’t be able to rewatch the drama for this haha.
- The best part of this drama was definitely the villains. While they were also one-dimensional even after having titbits that were NOT explored, they were so good. Much better than the heroes.
- There was a chance to flesh out Choi Myung-hee’s character as well, especially with how we were introduced to her, but it was neglected. She just became Jang Han-seok’s right hand and lost herself in this fight. Until the end her character remained something for Jang Han-seok and was barely anything individually.
- Yes, we can argue that her character arc is also a valid one but I have a hard time believing that her character would be reduced to almost nothing if done well. She could have layers while remaining Han-seok’s right hand. But she did not.
- Another character that got completely sidelined due to a male character was Hong Cha-young. She could have been so much but wasn’t given the option. Vincenzo outshone Cha-young all the time and didn’t let her shine. She never came up with good ideas or winning strategies. It was always Vincenzo.
- Now that I’ve written it down, seeing how both Choi Myung-hee and Hong Cha-young became supporting characters to male characters and weren’t allowed to shine individually, it looks like the show is a little misogynistic.
- It is DEFINITELY misogynistic where Vincenzo is concerned. Just a little bit with Jang Han-seok.
- Jang Han-seo was a good character. I liked his arc. Even how he died. It was nice. It was sweet, the way he felt comfortable with Vincenzo. He made me appreciate Vincenzo for once but also Vincenzo did nothing so. This was another form of telling > showing because I did not at all see anything big brotherly in Vincenzo until Jang Han-seo told it specifically. And even then I appreciated it only for Han-seo. Could care less about Vincenzo.
- I liked every time Vincenzo’s name or title was pronounced wrong. Hong Cha-young saying Quassano was funny. Guemga plaza members saying corn salad and celebrating his as a corn salad was very funny.
That’s all I can think of now. I’ll probably think of more later so will edit and add them here lol. I have tooo many opinions on Vincenzo that I can’t keep track.
final score = -6
Clearly, I did NOT enjoy the drama. In my opinion, Vincenzo is overrated and does not deserve the hype.
It has a few good parts. Many people have enjoyed it too so it is not all that bad. But it was very bad for me because it ruined everything I like to see and then some.
I wouldn’t recommend watching this drama. If you do, do yourself a favour and watch it at a faster speed if you can. 1.5x would be better.