The solution to all of Jang Hyuk’s problems in Bad Papa seem to be money, but every time he makes the choice to take the money, despite the risks, he ignores the potential for his choice to end badly. His character Yoo Ji Cheol grew up poor and became a mixed martial arts fighter. After a meteoric rise, he fought in a match everyone thought was fixed, stopped fighting, then became a detective, who took bribes that ultimately got him kicked out. His family has suffered, but it’s as much about the debt as it is his poor self image. He’s sure that if he could pay the bills on time, everything would magically work out in his relationships with his wife, an aspiring writer, and his daughter, a talented dancer.
Desperate for cash after he’s expelled from the police force, he enrolls in a clinical trial for an unproven drug. It kills one of the participants, but oddly it gives Yoo bursts of unparalleled strength that enable him to once again win fights. His new fighting career earns him a good deal of money. Everyone wants to see the has been defeated.
With that money, Yoo buys his wife the house of her dreams but it doesn’t solve their marital problems. He keeps missing what matters. He’s a man so obsessed with what’s lacking, he never stops to appreciate what he does have. He’s also risking his life to end their problems, not stopping to think that, without him, the family’s problems could be so much worse.
Lee Min Woo, played by Ha Joon, is Yoo’s rival in love and battle. He won the fight with Yoo that ended Yoo’s career. He wants Yoo’s wife, and creates a devious plan to woo her, which includes getting her a book deal. It seems like her dream to publish a novel will finally come true, but when Choi Sun Joo, played by Son Yeo Eun, realizes why Lee helped her, she backs out. Her marriage is more important and she chooses her husband.
Lee Min Woo may seem like the villain in this story but if you suspect the story was partly inspired by the Russian novel Crime and Punishment, you realize the real villain is poverty.
A flashback into Choi’s childhood shows that she was also crushingly poor and her family did not encourage her to better herself. As a student her favorite book was Crime and Punishment, a book she read so many times she almost memorized it. The book’s view into the world of literature inspired her to become a writer and pen her novel, You Came To Me Bleeding.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel is about the moral dilemma of an ex-student who plans a murder for money, hoping to liberate himself from poverty. Dostoevsky was crippled by debt when he wrote the book and he knew how poverty could pervert morality, how it could justify crime.
Jang Hyuk, always a wonderful actor, is accomplished as the morally challenged Yoo Ji Cheol. He plays the character so sympathetically that it’s easy to forgive his failings, even love him. His wife fell for him before she even met him, when she saw him win a fight that everyone thought he would lose. His determination gave her hope at a time when all seemed impossible.
In the Russian novel, the soul of Dostoevsky’s protagonist is redeemed by the love of a good woman.
Will Yoo Ji Yeol win the final fight by cheating? Will the mysterious drug kill him? Will he realize what’s truly valuable in life?
Since this is a k-drama, it will likely end on a more upbeat note than Crime and Punishment. Jang Hyuk may win his fight, with or without the mystery drug. And he may survive the deadly drug. He may also learn that money is not the solution to all the important problems in his life and that he already owns the most valuable thing in life, the love of a good woman.
You can watch this drama on Viki.com.