Numbers (Film Review)



Rating: 5 out of 5.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Technical Elements

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Entire conglomerates, banks, and nations may rise or fall on the advice or judgment of an accountant . . . a single whisper to the media may topple the stock market; one poor audit rating may shutter the firm’s doors. Where power, money, and politics combine, surely corruption and crime are sure to seep their way up through the system.

Jang Ho-Woo learns that lesson brutally when the accounting firm trusted to audit his adopted father’s company deliberately bankrupts the firm. The resulting damage to the community and the deadly impact on those he cares about forces Ho-Woo on a desperate search for explanations. 

Unfamiliar with the numbers and terminology used to devastate his family, Ho-Woo finds no one willing to help him investigate the powerful firm. To find his answers and to stop Taeil Accounting from harming others in similar fashion, Ho-Woo heads undercover into the heart of the firm as a first year accounting.

Disadvantaged by his fast-track path to start his career, Ho-Woo struggles to prove to his colleagues that he can keep up with the best while slowly maneuvering closer to those with the information he needs. From illicit shell companies and duplicitous suppliers to deceptive inventory practices, Ho-Woo must read beyond the numbers into the secrets buried within. 

Working alongside Ho-Woo are friends, enemies, and those who might just switch sides. Not the least of which is Han Seung-Jo. . . the man who signed the papers bankrupting Ho-Woo’s family and the son of one of the most powerful men in the country. Operating from within the enemy’s territory, Ho-Woo builds a team of like-minded allies who uncover a conspiracy that threatens themselves, their friends, their clients, the banks, the economy, and ultimately national security. When their opponent proves he is not above murder or treason, can they uncover the numbers that just might save the day?


Although this drama may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as an accountant and prior ethics professor, I found the show absolutely amazing. So for this one, I’ll have a lot of thoughts to share 🤣. In a pleasant surprise, I genuinely enjoyed not only the accounting and crime-fighting aspects of the show, I also enjoyed how it gave a unique perspective on the battle of good versus evil.

“The fate of everyone with interest in the company depends on the accounting firm’s decision”

– Jin Yeon A (Senior Associate)

“Even if the accounting system becomes nearly perfect, human greed always finds a loophole. Even if there’s the smallest hole, it squeezes itself in and roots. Then soon it becomes a thick tree. Then it drags others to rest under that tree. That’s how the tree forms a forest.”

– Kang Hyun (Senior Manager)

Although the drama initially focuses on developing Ho-Woo’s plotline, it is ultimately the integrated story of many individual characters. From the chairman using corporate funds to cover for his son’s crimes to the poor accountant financially indebted to his wealthy sponsor to the daughter seeking to protect her father’s reputation to the auditor facing the option of lie or resign. . . . it’s the story of everyday people facing what feel like impossible ethical dilemmas. People forced to confront their bottom lines and establish how far their limits can be pushed. Can these individuals act against their own interests for the sake of the public good? And in the face of powerful and wealthy manipulators, to what extent can humanity be driven to act against their better instincts? 

“Decisions aren’t made in an instant. They’re made based on the time you’ve lived until now. That’s why decisions show how someone has lived and how they’ll live going forward.”

— Jang Ho Woo

An amazing aspect of this show is the diverse display of ‘ethical’ people throughout. Many Korean shows feature the theme of an individual or small group of ‘morally good’ people working alone to re-establish justice while the antagonist holds everyone else immobile through fear or greed. The protagonist is often poor and/or socially disadvantaged; while the antagonist is powerful and wealthy, frequently a politician or chaebol. It is the oft repeated tale of David and Goliath, Robin Hood robbing the wicked rich, and the ‘white collar worker saves the day.’ Not a bad message, but a bit overdone and certainly narrow-minded on the whole. “Numbers” does not take that route — though Ho-Woo initially assumes it will be that way. Instead, Ho-Woo finds support from those amongst all socio-economic backgrounds. From bank presidents and corporate chairmen to national journalists, government officials, prosecutors, small restaurant owners, and the general public; each has a representative in the ultimate crowd of ‘good guys’ by story’s end. 

In a highly uplifting message, it becomes clear that when working together the heroes far outnumber the bad. Ho-Woo comes to understand it is insufficient to rage against unfairness and corruption if your rage is not backed with action and even then that a single individual may not have the power to make their voice mean something. But where many take action (and there are many good people), there is little they cannot accomplish.

“I’m jealous of you. Your anger has power. Power to change what is wrong. Power to cut the rotten tree before it forms a forest.”

— Jang Ho Woo

It also speaks to the fact that just because someone appears to be a good and decent person, it does not mean that they will remain so through all morally difficult decisions; nor that those who have strayed from the ethical path cannot be brought back to virtue when surrounded by others who are making the right decisions.

Ho-Woo (and all those around him) are depicted as intelligent and competent individuals, well versed in the laws and regulations and able to wield them as weapons when needed. We loved that the female cast are also portrayed as bright, emotionally stable people who work together with their male colleagues with few if any gender discrimination issues arising. It was a pleasant change and allowed the characters to build an amazing repertoire as a team.To that end, the screenwriters also expect the viewers to be intelligent, educated individuals as well. The crimes were complex and involved actual issues in the accounting profession (from stock manipulation to hiding assets in the financial statements). It is not the sort of drama where you put it on and go about your business with it in the background. You need to listen and pay attention to their explanations to understand how the crimes are being committed and how the accountants are able to bring it to an end. From a social perspective, we thought this was an amazing way to introduce the public to accounting issues and how those decisions can impact the general economy (e.g., a bank run). 

Slight Possible Spoiler Below I Suppose. . .Some people did not enjoy the ending of the show because they feel it leaves things somewhat unfinished; however, that was to me quite natural for the flow of the story. . . those who are truly corrupt will continue being corrupt and (especially for those with wealth or power), they may not face true justice on earth. Even if they are brought down once and for all, new offenders will appear to fill in the void. The fight between ethics and corruption in society is not the simple open and shut case of books and films. . . it is an ongoing struggle with new issues and new attacks launched daily in all aspects of the financial industry. The importance lies in continuing to fight anyway.

The cast has significant experience among them and some have worked together in other dramas which allowed them to have comfortable chemistry on screen. Choi Jin Hyuk and Choi Min Soo are always excellent actors and bring a high level of professionalism to the wide range of characters they have played. It is nice seeing Choi Jin Hyuk as a mature actor having seen him develop over the years. I can’t name a single character who did not do a wonderful job with their role their written portrays were very well developed. The technical aspects were well done though it didn’t require any major scenes beyond the big fire in one episode. I can’t recall the music so it didn’t leave a lasting impression, but that’s neither good nor bad. Overall, definitely one of our few five stars!Have you seen Numbers? What did you think?!

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