Doctor Prisoner (2019) A Review

Na I-jae (Namgoong Min) formerly an emergency specialist and surgeon at Taekang Hospital was falsely accused of medical malpractice and served out a three-year prison sentence where he cultivated key relationships and began hatching a revenge scheme against those who put him there. Or so it seems. But as the story unfolds, it is not entirely certain that revenge is all he’s after. The “good” doctor apparently has bigger fish to fry. Using his medical skills, mental acuity and a knack for thinking on his feet, Na I-jae sets his sights on being the medical director of one of the largest penitentiaries in Seoul. Why? According to the premise of this drama, the person who runs the medical facility in the prison wields the greatest power. That person has the authority to control the traffic of prisoners in and out of the penitentiary by exploiting his medical expertise. Not long after his release the ethically flexible I-jae uses his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of medical conditions to enable well-connected inmates to appeal for stays of execution to take advantage of this particular loop hole in the judicial system. Our introduction to how Na I-jae works comes from his interaction with O Jung-hee a wealthy businesswoman who allegedly took out a contract on her ex-husband’s mistress. She escapes a prolonged prison stay when Na I-jae manufactures an illness which provides her with a stay of execution. This lady is happy but completely unaware that this is merely the start to a longwinded transactional relationship between them.

Early on Na I-jae targets the second son of the Taekang conglomerate, Lee Jae-hwan (Park Eun-seok) who figures in the doctor’s past. The youngster is a no-good wastrel whose drug habit makes him an easy prey for his older half brother. As he heads towards prison, he falls into the clutches of the soon-to-be medical director of Western Seoul penitentiary. This marks the beginings of the crafty doctor’s grand plan to deal with corruption between colluding forces in medicine and Big Business.

Na I-jae’s primary adversaries are the former medical director of Western Seoul Prison, Sun Min-sik (Kim Byung-chul) and the ambitious scion of Taekang Group, Lee Jae-jun (Choi Won-young). All three actors of course are well-regarded veterans of the screen and they are seem to play up the villainous side of their respective characters with no lack of enjoyment. The main trio are pros in the way they negotiate, transact and play off one against the other with inhuman energy and resolve. Most of the show’s best moments involve these men bluffing like seasoned card sharps in a poker game.

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