Big Mouth
MBC (2022) 16 Episodes
Crime Drama, Grade: A-
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
Some Spoilers

Starring the wonderful actor Lee Jong Suk (I Hear Your Voice, Romance Is A Bonus Book) and the gorgeous actress Yoona (Love Rain,The Prime Minister And I), two of my top favorite Korean actors, Big Mouth (2022) K-drama was definitely on my radar to watch before it premiered, especially since it was Lee Jong Suk's first television drama after a three year lapse, due to his military service requirement in Korea, and his private real estate deals in Seoul. He lost none of his powers as an actor in the interim, and, indeed, got to deliver some powerful scenes of a type he had never been given the opportunity to create before. Crime dramas will often enable actors to flesh out characters in hypnotic melodramatic ways, compared to the lighter romances and flower boy escapist fare aimed for the younger set.

Big Mouth
will no doubt satisfy older audience members who crave more thought-provoking, realistic fare in their entertainment choices. Our main couple is already married, for example, so the suspense of watching a romance develop indepth during a typical sixteen episode drama is lacking. I should warn you, as well, that most of this drama takes place in a jail setting, which to me at least, at times, grew tedious. The big reason this drama got some high ratings for channel MBC is that its story kept you guessing who the mysterious character "Big Mouse" would be: was he someone inside the jail, or outside the jail trying to control events for nefarious reasons? On all the usual K-drama trivia sites viewers were constantly guessing who "Big Mouse" could be: it actually grew somewhat comical to read about their conjectures on the matter. All along I suspected it would have to be someone inside the jail itself because that person would have to be able to see daily firsthand what was going on with the diverse jailbird criminals inside the prison, inmates whom he sought to control, for secretive purposes. And I was proven right. :) 

Another actor in the cast whom I was happy to see again was Kim Joo Hun, whom I had absolutely loved as second male lead in the delightful 2020 drama Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, as well as other popular dramas. I knew from watching him before that he was superb at playing both comedy and pathos. He was perfect casting in Big Mouth, in fact I can't imagine anyone else in the role of the mysterious Mayor in this story. When his character gets his comeuppance in the last episode, for some reprehensible behavior he engaged in during the story, the actor was so brilliant in the scene that, in what should have been a dramatically sad moment, he actually made me laugh out loud! The expression on his face was priceless! It was as if the actor was telling the audience, "Yes, I wish this wasn't happening to me, but really I deserve it! It's true justice, and shouldn't every Mayor be about justice?" :)

Honestly, I did have some trepidation about Big Mouth as I started it, especially when I discovered the two writers had written the epic drama Vagabond (2019). That drama had started with a BANG! and was very addictive, but it ended with one of the lousiest endings ever in the history of K-dramas, suggesting that there would be a sequel which, of course, never came. Now the rumor mill is saying the same thing about Big Mouth: will there be a sequel? Having the main character driving off into the sunset, so to speak, is a rather uninspired way to end any story. Yawn!

The main reason to watch Big Mouth is because of the depth of the performances the actors give. Even the minor characters become unforgettable. Excellent casting here. There are solid cliffhangers in each episode, as well, which will keep you hooked for the duration. 

The Story:

We meet a young lawyer named Park Chang Ho (Lee Jong Suk), whose nickname is ‘Big Mouth’ because he’s known for “running his mouth off without the skills to back it up”. He only has a 10% success rate in his court cases because he's so happy-go-lucky, and pretty much an airhead (at first). He is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Go Mi Ho (Yoona) who works professionally as a nurse, and she is the one who supported him through law school and setting up his legal practice. They live together in an apartment they can ill afford, together with Mi Ho's kind father Go Gi Gwang (Lee Ki Young), a former police officer-turned-office manager. (He and Lee Jong Suk had worked together previously on the drama While You Were Sleeping; Big Mouth director Oh Choong Hwan was at the helm of that drama, too). 

Bills piling up help cause Chang Ho to reach out to loan sharks for money, a fact he hides from his wife, so as not to worry her. However, this dumb choice will set Chang Ho up for life-changing consequences, and not for the better! (Neither a borrower nor a lender be!). He continues to require money from loan sharks when he loses a big case centering on a cryptocurrency scam and a murder, and even though he himself is a victim of the scam, his poor legal skills in the case cause certain nefarious people to mark him out for revenge. He does something even more stupid when he confronts a media mogul heavily involved with the situation, Go Ji Hoon (Yang Kyung Won, Crash Landing On You, in another excellent performance), and tries to blackmail him for money, all over a key piece of evidence! (Yikes! how dumb can you get as a lawyer?) 

After getting into a brutal car accident on the night of his wedding anniversary, Chang Ho gets arrested at the hospital for suspected drug use. Turns out the drink handed to him by a female maid at Ji Hoon's residence before he got into his car had been spiked with an hallucinogen. He has to call his own lawyer Kim Soon Tae (Oh Eui Sik) to try and get him out of jail, but this guy isn't the brightest bulb in the world either, and fails to set him free. Chang Ho is sent to one of the worst jails in the country, Gucheon Penitentiary. Its warden, Park Yoon Gab (Jung Jae Sung, My Mister) isn't exactly a moral person either (but I guess anyone would become corrupt themselves, trying to run such an awful place!).

Once in this scary jail Chang Ho at first freaks out and tries to get the staff to kill him outright, so he can get out of his misery! This despite his wife Mi Ho telling him she will do anything and everything possible to get him out of prison and clear his name. She even has the guts to be hired at a hospital that is central to Chang Ho's case, to see if she can find out its secrets. Certain members of the staff on this hospital seem determined to ruin her nursing career. What a brave lass! Smart too, for when a head nurse accuses her of getting a prescription wrong, that almost killed a patient, Mi Ho was smart enough to have taken a picture of the original drug order with her cell phone, in order to protect herself. (One of my favorite scenes, I cheered!). She also repeatedly confronts their city's Mayor, Choi Do Ha (Kim Joo Hun), in an effort to get her husband freed from the hellhole jail environment. This Mayor seems to vacillate back and forth between seemingly helping Chang Ho and Mi Ho, but then turning his back on them. (For me, he quickly became an even bigger Question Mark than who "Big Mouse" was).

Then Chang Ho is falsely accused of being this notorious "Big Mouse" in the jail, a genius con-artist who swiped slush funds from the NR Forum, a secret organization backed by the upper echelons of the Korean business world, including Ji Hoon. (There’s a pun in the moniker, as the words ‘mouth’ and ‘mouse’ are written the same way in Korean: 마우스, or ma-u-seu. This subtle word-play is likely to be lost on most non-Koreans). Though Chang Ho, as the suspected "Big Mouse", is shunned by fellow inmates, he does find early allies in cellmates Jerry (Kwak Dong Yeon) and No Bak (Yang Hyung Wook).

However, who could the REAL "Big Mouse" be, and will he end up being an enemy of Chang Ho's, or a sudden friend? Did he have a deeply personal reason for seeking revenge against the NR Forum? One that involved his precious family member?

For a noirish-centered drama, Big Mouth does have its share of lighter moments, mostly centering on Chang Ho’s relationship with Mi Ho. As awkward as they may seem at times, when inserted into the show’s darker scenes of corruption and abuse of power, the incarcerated Chang Ho appears to rely on these more lighthearted, romantic memories as a source of inner strength, and we are touched by the devotion of his love for his wife.

Lee Jong Suk admirably covers a lot of deeply emotional ground as Chang Ho, going from a smooth-talking, not very bright lawyer, a chummy son-in-law and sweet-tongued husband, to a depressed jail prisoner, then a newly shrewd ‘double agent’. He offers a contrast to Yoon Ah's more down-to-earth and cerebral portrayal of the brave Mi Ho. Their chemistry as a couple is bittersweet, since we suspect their happiness might be fleeting, and might end in tragedy.

Check out Big Mouth to see if it's your cuppa tea. Crime drama aficionados will probably really love it. I enjoyed 90% of it very much, but was saddened by some parts of the end; probably not as dramatically as I was with Vagabond's ridiculous open ending, but still, many would wish for a happier ending, even though in actual performance terms it was extremely touching. A big courtroom scene near the end was fun, too, as was that nifty climactic pool scene with the Mayor, which made me unexpectedly grin from ear to ear, instead of cry. Enjoy!