Mad Dog is a drama about insurance fraud. The synopsis argues that the story is a “realistic” one. Let’s see if this is true during this review.
[Slight spoilers during the text!]
The main character is Choi Kang-Woo (Yoo Ji Tae), who is an investigator of insurance fraud for a big company in this business. One day, his family dies in an airplane accident and his life changes for the worse. Because of issues related to the case, he decides to quit his job and start a new venture to investigate insurance fraud.
His team is formed by an ex-fellow, Jang Ha Ri (Ryu Hwa Young – Father is Strange), the hacker On Noo-Ri(Kim Hye Seong – Falsify) and an ex-convict and nurse Park Soon-Jung (Jo Jae Yun – Save Me).
Also, we have the company characters: the CEO, his daughter (who has a romantic interest in Mr. Choi), an ex-fellow Mr. Park (Jang Hyuk-Jin, Suspicious Partner) and the airline CEO’ son Joo Hyun-Ki (Choi Won-Young, Hwarang).
Actors and character:
Choi Kang-Woo is the center of the story and he is also the most problematic character in terms of logic.
I am not impressed by Yoo Ji Tae’s performance, especially in the second episode when we discover what happens with his family. In that episode, he had to deliver strong emotions and, in my opinion, he couldn’t reach the right emotions and touch me. Also, the plot hadn’t shown a family that moved my heart. There wasn’t enough time to show that kind of family. I mean, we saw a spoiled child and an austere mother in conflict with the pre-teenager son. Also, there wasn’t any good scene of affection between wife and husband. In consequence, in the dramatic moment, when the family was abruptly dissolved, I had not enough feelings for them as I should have. As I will discuss below, the art direction didn’t help the actor either. In the end, the accident wasn’t any more tragic and emotional than if I had seen the same story on TV newscast.
Mr. Choi’s family died in an airplane crash because the pilot decided to kill himself. His insurance covered suicide as a cause of the death and his brother received 3.4 million dollars. Then he believed, as a fraud investigator, that the company shouldn’t pay the insurance. So, he quits his job to continue investigating insurance fraud.
Please note that nothing, in fact, supports his decision, since he keeps doing the same job. In addition, until episode 6, from his perspective, there was no suspicion that the company or the pilot had committed a crime. So, he wasn’t discussing whether there was a fraud or not, he just took the suicide as a fraud and expected that the company would refuse to pay for the contract (which covers death by suicide).
With his resignation, the only thing that really changed was the conditions for him to keep investigating the cases. Without his company’s support, he became an “illegal” investigator, who depends on his new and old fellows.
In the first episode, he uncovers a guy who was charging his insurance for a false disease and in the second case, he helped a tenant to receive the insurance money to pay for his wife treatment after the building where they worked had collapsed and hit her. So, there is no clear position if he decided to work against the insurance company, or which companies were interested in his services. The question remains: why does he quit if he continued to do the same job? The only answer is his ethics based on his pain: for him, the company shouldn’t have paid the insurance. So, he quits because of that.
Kim Min Joon (Woo Do Hwan, Save Me) is the adopted brother of the pilot who crashed the airplane where Mr. Choi’s family was. He is reinvestigating the accident privately. I think he’s curious to know whether his brother really crashed the airplane or there was an insurance fraud that led him to do so. He can’t investigate alone, so he searches for the Mad Dog team and forces them to cooperate with him. [This is not clear in the drama, but this is the best explanation so far].
Kim Min Joon and Mr. Choi have a very complicated relationship. The latter believes that the former accepted fraudulent money when he claimed the insurance money and went abroad. The only reason Mr. Choi has to hate Min Joon is one more time, his ethics based on his pain, which blind him from perceiving that the boy also lost his brother. On the other hand, Min Joon doesn’t know how to ask for help, because he is an orphan boy who grew up alone. So, both of them are facing many problems to interact.
However, Min Joon is a much more consistent character than Mr. Choi is. Min Joon has a purpose: he wants to know the truth behind his brother’s death. He is teasing the Mad Dog because he needs its cooperation. We have to see how the things will develop, but, from my point of view, I believe that the Mad Dog team and Min Joon won’t start to work together too soon, but they should do it quickly. Otherwise, Mad Do team will keep wasting energy investigation the case and Min Joon. There is no reason for it anymore, after episode 6. Despite that, if we consider the preview for the episode 7, they are not going to join forces yet.
Jang Ha-Ri is the only female in the main cast. She is part of the Mad Dog team and I like Ryu Hwa-Young so much. She knows how to create chemistry with her partners on screen. However, I hate how the author makes Ha Ri use her “female power of seduction” as a way to achieve objectives during the investigation. It’s time to stop seeing women as the femme fatal who achieves objectives using her body. [Sexist…]
The ex-convict Park Soon-Jung is a versatile element for the Mad Dog team and On Noo-Ri is the hacker.
Cha Hong-Joo is the daughter of the insurance company CEO and Joo Hyun-Ki is the airline CEO’s son. Both remind me of the daughter and the son of the two partners in the law firm in Whisper. In fact, this whole part of the plot reminds me of Whisper. The reason is easy. Hong Joo and Hyun Ki are ambitious, but their business skills aren’t acknowledged by their parents, as their equivalent in Whisper. Also, it’s highly possible that Hong Joo and Hyun Ki are involved in the airplane crash and that this accident was a fraud. In Whisper, both characters had a romantic relationship and created a criminal plan to take over the company; in the process, their relation broke off and the plan failed. As a consequence, everybody went to jail, and his father died. Here, we must wait and see how their plan (if there is a plan) will end.
I believe that the heirs are involved and the insurance company CEO also is part of the plan. Everything points that their plan will be exposed by Mr. Choi and Min Joon. However, it’s not clear what the intention behind the plan was. It is a valid question because the money (supposedly) was paid to Min Joon. So, what did CEO, Hong Joo and Hyun Ki win with this fraud? [Also, I have the feeling that Hong Joo participated in this case motivated by her feelings for Mr. Choi].
Ok. Enough with the theories. Let’s move on.
The art direction is not good enough. We could see it on the bad photoshop art used to compose the drama poster.
In episode 2, they a made terrible reconstruction of the corpses of Mr. Choi’s family and their artificiality was very negative for the dramatic effect of the scene.
The airplane crash had a bad graphics effect, but this is common in k-dramas because this resource is very expensive. However, this doesn’t affect the viewers’ experience as the first point.
Except for what I just mentioned, the drama is fairly well produced. It’s not as bad as Whisper. I would say it is comparable to Lookout production, however, here we see much fewer action scenes.
For me, the drama had an unfortunate beginning. I almost dropped it after the second episode because the motivation of the characters was far from making any sense and being plausible. I’m glad I gave it another chance because the episodes 3 and 4 weren’t as bad as the two first episodes and the story revealed some aspects of interest.
The problem now is the rhythm of the narrative. The investigation in the episodes 3 and 4 was correctly conducted and the case was interesting, however, the pace was slow. They gave a huge tip to the viewers about the mystery solution, but the team took two episodes to find the truth. In this case, it would have been better if they had figured out the death cause in episode 3 and, during episode 4, found the pieces of evidence to process the killer. This would have made the investigation look more efficient and the drama more dynamic.
The case in the episodes 3 and 4 was important to reveal the limits of Mr. Choi’s perspective. We must wait and see if he will change his mind for the best or if he will remain the same about his ethics. I mean, Mr. Choi has to understand that he is not the only victim in the airplane accident and, sometimes, the boundaries between wrong and right are blurry. I believe that he and Min Joon need to cooperate with each other, but I don’t feel that it will happen very soon. However, in episode 6, we can see a Mr. Choi more skeptic and who is more willing to question his absolute truths.
There is a problem: we are in episode 6 and the drama has 10 more episodes and, so far, we have little information about what really caused the accident. In episode 5, they found a person who could reveal some important information, however, they killed the person before it happened. In episode 6, they also killed another important witness.
So, my reasonable fear is, if the author resists revealing information during the drama in a consistent way, everything will be solved at the last moment. In episode 6, Mr. Park (the company investigator) took Mr. Choi’s side and presented a new witness, who can not have his testimony filed in court for not being reliable. However, Mr. Choi should ask why Mr. Park decided to help him and if Mr. Park is himself trustworthy. Here, we let see how the plot will develop.
The drama has a very flashy plot, as a “realistic” plot about insurance fraud, but in general the actions of the characters are too exaggerated and sometimes the motivations are inconsistent with the actions; for example, there is no real reason for Mr. Choi to hate Min Joon so much, there wasn’t a reason for him to quit his job and he was too resistant to accept a new perspective about the accident even with good reason to put in question his previous certainties.
[If you are wondering… yes, I ship. I ship a lot!]
There is a pretentious attitude from the author that doesn’t correspond to a plot of excellence. My impression is that he tried to write a new Stranger (or Forest of Secrets) and he failed because his plot couldn’t develop the right motivation for the characters and create affection to sustain the main drama.
Despite the critics, Mad Dog is not a complete waste of time, so let’s see how the plot will progress!
♦ My score: 8 ♦
Now, listen to the OST (available on Spotify)
Before the sunset – Eric Nam ↓
What I want – NiiHwa ↓
Hyolyn – Don’t Love Me ↓