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Updated 30 May 2021
Written by Park Jae-bum, Directed by Kim Hee-won
Genre: Drama/Dark Comedy
Production company: Studio Dragon [스튜디오드래곤]
February 20 ~ May 2 2021 [Sat & Sun]
Vincenzo Cassano, an Italian mafia consigliere who was adopted as a child, returns to his homeland of South Korea in pursuit of hidden gold. Along the way, Vincenzo encounters a human rights lawyer in pursuit of social justice, while crossing paths with the older man’s high-flyer lawyer daughter, who would do everything to cover up her client’s dirty deeds. An untimely and unjust death eventually brings them down the same path — taking down the bad guys in their own unique way.
— by Mich KDL
Lawyer, Italian mafia consigliere; Korean by birth, adopted by an Italian family as a child
— — — — — — —
Jang Joon-woo/Jang Han-seok (Ok Taec-yeon)
Intern, Wusang Law Firm; oldest son of Babel Group
Han Seung-hyuk (Jo Han-chul)
Wusang Law Firm managing director
Hong Yu-chan (Yoo Jae-myung)
Lawyer, Jipuragi Law Firm
Cho Yeong-un (Choi Young-joon)
Owner, Geumga Plaza
Lawyer, formerly with Wusang Law Firm; took over her father’s law firm ‘Jipuragi’ after his death
— — — — — — —
Jang Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon)
Babel Group chairman; Han-seok’s half-brother
Choi Myung-hee (Kim Yeo-jin)
former prosecutor turned senior lawyer at Wusang
Nam Joo-sung (Yoon Byung-hee)
Paralegal, Jipuragi Law Firm
Hwang Min-seong (Kim Sung-cheol)
President, Shinkwang Bank
PRODUCTION: WRITER & DIRECTOR
Screenwriter: Park Jae-bum (박재범)
Park Jae-bum (박재범) (b. 1971) is a prolific South Korean screenwriter who has developed a signature style in dark comedy — a comment on the darker societal injustices (mostly corruption) peppered with the right dose of black humor. Song Joong-ki even has even gone as far as calling these shows “a very new genre, a high-class genre“.
Park honed his writer skills first at the beginning of the 2000s with two single episode series for KBS Drama City (드라마 시티) and then from 2010 with medical/forensic dramas such as Quiz from God I-IV (2010-2014; the 2018 reboot not included), Good Doctor (2013), and Blood (2015). But it was in 2017 with Good Manager, in which Namgoong Min played the lead role of an employee (Kim Sung-ryong) who battles internal corruption within a company, that Park found his niche. He added more violence, more dark twists (and references to real life misdeeds), more comedy, along with a larger clan of accomplices in the fight against evil in 2019’s The Fiery Priest, with Kim Nam-gil as the ill tempered priest Kim Hae-il.
A common thread in all dramas by Park since 2017 is that all heroes are former villains that unintentionally come to bring justice in their own ways, with their own unique set of skills: Sung-ryong as a former accountant for a gang, Kim Hae-il aka Michael Kim was a former NIS agent turned priest, and finally Vincenzo as a mafia consigliere/lawyer. But, according to Park Jae-bum himself: “In contrast to ‘The Fiery Priest’ and ‘Good Manager,’ where I tried to serve refreshment through laughter, ‘Vincenzo’ is of a more complex genre and will give refreshment in more diverse aspects.” In fact, Vincenzo can be considered a very tightrope walk between dark comedy and revenge thriller. Though The Fiery Priest was considered a “surprise hit” with its 20% viewership ratings, Vincenzo was marketed as “the new hit drama” even while still in production.
Director: Kim Hee-won (김희원)
Kim Hee-won (김희원) (not to be mixed up with the actor of the same name) joined MBC in 2006 and produced her two first two dramas at this station: weekend drama Last Scandal (내 생애 마지막 스캔들) and daily drama Don’t Cry My Love (사랑해, 울지마), which aired in 2008-09. After a short stint at MBN in 2011-2012 for the production of You’re Here, You’re Here, You’re Really Here (왔어 왔어 제대로 왔어), Kim returned to MBC in 2014 first as a producer for Fated to Love You. She also directed her first drama, Old Goodbye (오래된 안녕), part of the 2014 MBC Drama Festival, with Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk in the main roles. From here on, she co-directed Warm and Cozy in 2015, Glamorous Temptation in 2015-16 and Golden Pouch in 2016.
2017’s Money Flower marked Kim’s first wholly directed drama. It is also here that she set first signature signs working with daylight and stark contrasts. This work is followed two years later in 2019 by historical drama The Crowned Clown, this time for broadcaster tvN (she had left MBC in May 2018). With Vincenzo, which followed two years later in 2021, she marked a new milestone: receiving her very first Best Director nomination ever, at the 57th Baeksang Arts Awards. This accolade eventually went to Flower of Evil director Kim Chul-gyu.
Much like the drama itself, the location choices in Vincenzo are varied and storied. As Mich KDL shared in her first blogpost about location highlights in episodes 1-10, they “range from stunning brand new inclusions, to old-time staples seen in a different light”. This also included bringing places like Maiim VisionVillage, Samsungri, and Daewoong Management Development Institute back into the spotlight — all which have not appeared in K-Dramaland since 2018/9. In the latter episodes, we see a mix of indoor and outdoor locations, which add different feels to different scenes. All in all, they’ve created an interesting and unique world for our beloved corn salad and his Geumga-Cassano famiglia.
Search Vincenzo (빈센조) on KDL for a visual look of all locations.
Amidst the engaging storyline and quirky antics of the characters, each episode of Vincenzo had various media and socio-cultural references that were both fun to spot and interesting to learn about. Since there are just way too many to mention, we’ve picked out some of our favorites for this overview:
Movie: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Upon hearing that Geumga Plaza was going to be demolished that very night, Cha-young rushes down to the building in episode 2 –– only to find it transformed into a lively and festive ‘Traditional Sicilian Wine Party for Insiders’. As she marvels at the elaborate ruse to protect the building, she spots Vincenzo, who toasts her with his wine glass amidst the revelry. This mirrors the iconic pose seen in the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular millionaire character known for throwing elaborately extravagant parties.
In a retrospective commentary on The Swoon featuring writer Park Jae-bum, director Kim Hee-won, and lead actor Song Joong-ki (SJK), Park said that he thought SJK would “look better [and cooler] than DiCaprio” in this scene. SJK, in turn, humbly replied that he “love[s] DiCaprio”.
Music: 2PM – Heartbeat (2009)
“Can you feel my heartbeat” is a line that has been heard in Vincenzo more times to be considered just a passing phrase –– and there’s a reason it’s mostly been said by Jang Joon-woo/Jang Han-seok, played by Ok Taec-yeon. This is because he made his showbiz debut as a member of the group 2PM in 2008. The song in question is 2009’s Heartbeat, which made the guys known for their ‘zombie-like choreography’.
Fun fact: ‘Heartbeat’ can also be heard in 2020’s Zombie Detective, with lead actor Choi Jin-hyuk dancing to the tune on the street.
Artwork: Liberty Leading The People (1830)
It’s not every day that an iconic painting gets to take centerstage in a K-Drama, but Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People has every reason to be in Vincenzo. In episode 7, the consigliere shares more about what he knows of the painting at a ‘chance’ meeting with Kim Yeo-won, the wife of Dr Gil Jong-moon, at Mimesis Art Museum:
“The colors held by Liberty represent freedom, equality, and fraternity. Delacroix used these colors in three different places. One is in Liberty’s hand. The colors show up again in that man’s red belt, white undershirt, and blue shirt. And finally, it’s also at the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral.”
“And the dress she’s wearing doesn’t look like a regular French dress, either. ”
“That’s a Greek dress. That’s why she also symbolizes Libertas, the goddess of freedom in mythology.”
A keen choice of artistic expression indeed, as it is parallel to the struggle faced by the Geumga tenants –– who hilariously mimic a similar scene towards the end of the episode, in a tussle with Babel-hired thugs.
In the retrospective commentary on The Swoon, writer Park Jae-bum said that he “really wanted to write this scene in [as] it portrays a people’s revolution… [the Geumga tenants] become enlightened and they start defending themselves“.
Fun fact: The painting was also featured on the cover of British band Coldplay’s 2008 album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.
Music: Park Hyo-Shin –– Snow Flower (눈의 꽃) (2004)
Oh Jung-bae, the superstitious boss of Daechang Daily, heads to Geumga Plaza in episode 15 to visit a shaman called Yeorim, said to be more powerful than his regular shaman. This, of course, turns out to be a (rather brilliant) ruse put on by Team Jipuragi, with Vincenzo leading the charge.
Oh does a double take when he hears about the deity in question –– and frankly, he had every reason to be amused. This ‘shrine’ was said to be built in honour of the ‘Spirit of Park Hyo’, or ‘Park Hyo Shin’ (박효신). In real life, Park Hyo-shin is a highly acclaimed Korean singer, also known as the ‘God of Music‘.
Another fun fact is that Paralegal Nam sings the opening lyric from one of Park’s songs during that first visit: Snow Flower (눈의 꽃), a Korean cover of a Japanese song called ‘Yuki No Hana’, from the soundtrack of the 2004 drama I’m Sorry, I Love You. This was the song that was said to have “brought Park to fame”.
Cultural: Bungeoppang and Ingeoppang
Vincenzo and Cha-young managed to stretch discussing the difference between these two carp-shaped pastries beyond more than one episode (from episode 12 to 14), though it did not become as heated as that of tangsuyuk dippers vs pourers a la Search: WWW. But what was it about them that got the duo discussing it in the first place?
Bungeoppang (붕어빵), which comes from the word bungeo (붕어, crucian carp) and ppang (빵, bread), is a popular winter street snack filled with red bean paste and sweet cream. It’s likely to have originated from the Japanese taiyaki, which was brought in during the Japanese occupation in the 1930s. When the snack gained popularity in the 1990s, it’s said to have sparked competition: enter the Golden Fish Food Company (황금어장식품), which applied for a patent in 1999 for ‘Golden Carp Bread’ (황금잉어빵) — also known as hwanggeum ingeoppang.
Though both V and his mom both claim that the difference between both pastries is in the shape of their mouths, the actual difference is in the batter. According to this Naver blogpost and this MBN article (which even comes with a table detailing the differences!), bungeoppang‘s batter is made from flour, while ingeoppang uses glutinous rice flour and butter or oil. This results in ingeoppang having a thinner, translucent batter, which is slightly greasy; as for bungeoppang, its batter is thicker and chewier, with a ‘clean and light’ aftertaste.
So, V and Cha-young: which of you would like to step up first for the forehead flick? 😉
SONG JOONG-KI REFERENCES
Not only was Vincenzo a treat for the eyes (thanks to a suited up Song Joong-ki), but it’s even more a treat for SJK fans to spot these references to his past dramas, and even a recent movie:
“Pungho. Maru. Sijin. Eunseom. This is my first time watering you. I’ll be your new dad from today,” Paralegal Nam says assuringly to four potted plants at the Jipuragi Law Firm office, which were newly orphaned following the death of lawyer Hong Yu-chan in episode 4.
They may seem like regular names to the untrained ear; but these were actually SJK’s character names in previous dramas: Pungho was from 2009’s Triple (through which he got to show off his short-track speed skating skills, and also briefly in Vincenzo); Maru from 2012’s The Innocent Man; Sijin — that’s Captain Yoo to the rest of us — from 2016’s Descendants of the Sun; and Eunseom from 2019’s Arthdal Chronicles. Thankfully, SJK himself got the related question right in this superfan quiz video on The Swoon!
Fun fact: Director Kim Hee-won was said to have casted SJK in Vincenzo after seeing his performance in The Innocent Man.
Movie: Space Sweepers (2021)
Hello, Tae Ho. This was the pseudonym that Vincenzo took up in episode 8 to get closer to Shinkwang Bank president Hwang Min-seong (cameo by Kim Sung-cheol, SJK’s co-star in Arthdal Chronicles), who’s said to have a thing for “one-syllable first names”, according to Cha-young.
The name was not quite chosen at random, however; it’s actually SJK’s character name in the 2021 Netflix movie Space Sweepers, touted as “the first Korean space blockbuster”.
Fun fact 1: Min-seong shouting out “Let’s go, Spaceship Victory!” while on one of the rides with Vincenzo at the amusement park could have been an ad-lib, but it turns out that it wasn’t the case. In the retrospective commentary on The Swoon, director Kim Hee-won stated that the line was indeed in the script, with writer Park Bae-bum adding, “I wrote it to support the movie.”
Fun fact 2: Jin Sun-kyu, who also stars with SJK in Space Sweepers, makes a cameo in episode 1 as the limousine driver in cahoots with rogue scammer (cameo by Lee Hee-jun, his co-star in the upcoming movie Bogotá).
Drama: Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
We’ve learnt about the Shrine of Park Hyoshin in the previous reference section –– but how about the shaman himself? If ‘Yeorim’ and his flower-boy, fancy fan mannerisms seem to ring a bell, it’s actually a reference to SJK’s character in 2010’s Sungkyunkwan Scandal, in which he played the free-spirited Joseon playboy Gu Yong-ha.
Any other information to add? Or any thoughts about the drama and its locations?
Let us know in the comments!