Confidential Assignment (2017) – Review

The new Korean film, Confidential Assignment, takes a fresh look at buddy cop conventions....Read More

Confidential Assignment (2017) – 공조 

  • Directed by: Kim Sung-hoon (김성훈)
  • Starring: Hyun Bin (현빈), Yoo Hae-jin (유해진), Kim Joo-hyuck (김주혁), Jang Young-nam (장영남), Lee Dong-hwi (이동휘)
  • Synopsis: South Korean detective Jin-tae (Yoo Hae-jin) is assigned to assist the undercover North Korean agent, Lim (Hyun Bin), in a secret manhunt for a North Korean fugitive in Seoul over the course of a high-level three day state meeting between the two countries. However, South Korean intelligence believes there is a hidden motive behind the manhunt, and Jin-tae must prevent Lim from completing his mission before they find out the truth.

Review

Buddy cop movies are typically known for their duos being paired from differing racial or ethnic backgrounds (48 Hours (1982), Lethal Weapon (1987), Bulletproof (1996), Rush Hour (1998), Showtime (2002), Cop Out (2010)) making them part of a genre that has been almost uniquely American. So with Korea being a predominantly heterogeneous society, the ability to play on the racial tropes don’t really work here. However, the unique situation of a divided Korea (North/South) has Confidential Assignment paring its duo based along this division. Turning out to be more than just an interesting idea, Confidential Assignment is able to deliver a fresh new take on this classic buddy cop formula.

MINOR PLOT/SUMMARY SPOILERS
(Scroll Down for Spoiler Free Zone)

THE BUDDIES

Jin-tae (Yoo Hae-jin) is a goofy South Korean detective and family man at heart working to support his wife (Jang Young-nam) and nine year old daughter who desperately wants an iPhone. He also has a pretty freeloader sister-in-law with maxed out credit cards who lives at home with them. Jin-tae is a good detective but his low wages and family-first attitude leave him more focused on paying the bills than doing his job by the book. This leads to one oversight too many and a three month suspension from work.

But when North Korea suddenly sets up a highly suspicious meeting with the South, Jin-tae’s chance for redemption comes from a friend and connection within the intelligence agency who sets him up on a secret assignment. He is to work with a known North Korean agent, Lim (Hyun Bin), on a joint investigation in Seoul to apprehend a dangerous North Korean fugitive, Cha (Kim Joo-hyuck), who has crossed into to the South.

Lim, a handsome yet battle hardened badass army detective from North Korea, gets double crossed by his superior, Cha, and is nearly killed along with his entire team in a heist. Cha and his rogue group of mercenaries steal special gold plates capable of perfectly counterfeiting American dollars from their own government and then flee to South Korea where they plan to sell them to the Triad. So, in order to not only save face with with the world, but to prevent what might even be considering a possible “act of war” if the plates were to be discovered by the international community, North Korean military officials entrust Lim to their joint investigation in Seoul. Hellbent on revenge, he is assigned to work with Jin-tae on the manhunt for Cha, and to secretly recover the stolen plates.

Since Southern intelligence officials suspect Lim may be up to more than just tracking down Cha, Jin-tae’s job is to covertly obstruct agent Lim from doing whatever he was assigned to do long enough for the South’s intelligence to figure out what the operation is truly about. This is the bulk of the film and where the fun begins.

SPOILER FREE ZONE BELOW

If you are familiar with Korean cinema you probably know Yoo Hae-jin (Veteran, 2015; The Classified File, 2015; Tazza, 2006) by now, he plays the loudmouth Jin-tae with his signature acting style that I might describe as “serious hilarity.” Known for his unique face and the ability to go from the deepest ends of the dramatic spectrum to suddenly making you laugh within just one sentence of dialogue, Yoo Hae-jin is seemingly capable of playing just about any character. He is contrasted by the dashingly handsome Hyun Bin (The Fatal Encounter, 2014), whose character, Lim, remains serious and deadpan most of the movie.

Jin-tae and Lim continually cat and mouse each other trying to get the upper hand in the investigation for their respective governments. This results in a lot of back and forth banter that plays not only to their hilarious physical differences, but to the ideological differences of their governments as well. Jin-tae often talks about what little money he earns and how this joint investigation will restore his reputation and fast track him to earning “the big bucks” with dreams of sending his daughter through school, getting his sister-in-law married, and buying a nice big house for his wife. He is always in a state of unrest and saying things like, “It’s not worth it considering what they’re paying us!” At home he can’t sleep without being bothered to buy the new iPhone for his daughter, and several scenes have him unhappily taking out the garbage to highlight the needs and desires for consumption in a capitalistic economy. While Lim on the other hand, even with his prime motivation being revenge rather than money, tends to talk more about the pride and comradery of his countrymen. He takes offense to any hostile words directed towards the regime and would readily die for his country. He brings up the wealth disparity in the South and responds to Jin-tae’s, “At least we’re not all poor and hungry!” with , “At least we’re poor and hungry together!” This banter helps to establish the dichotomy of their characters and adds an interesting layer to the conflict they must work through in order to see eye to eye in the end, a paramount feature of the buddy cop movie.

There are some exciting action sequences in Confidential Assignment set to a very cool action anthem. It is pretty awesome when Lim goes tearing through Korean Triad members 아저씨 (The Man from Nowhere, 2010) style while Jin-tae does a clumsy Jacky Chan in a few entertaining brawls, shootouts, and car chases that do more than enough to get your blood pumping. But some of the best scenes come when Jin-tae brings Lim home with him and gets to meet his family. The interactions among his family members as they have breakfast together and get to know this mysterious new partner of Jin-tae’s are a real treat to watch. These family-time moments give the film a great balance between its action side and widen its overall appeal, making it easy to see why the film has done so well at the box office this year (currently the #1 film of the year).

confidential-assignment-9

Confidential Assignment is a strong and somewhat unique addition to the buddy cop universe. The final act becomes quite cliched and gets caught up in that Korean movie tradition of dragging on a bit longer than necessary. It is a bit frustrating when the first 90 minutes are outstanding but the last 30 sort of disappoint. Fortunately the performances and action sequences are strong enough to get you to the finish in this one. If you get a chance, definitely check out Confidential Assignment because there is a lot of fun to be had here.

Trailer


Categories
KoreanReview
One Comment

Leave a Reply

  • Tom
    9 February 2017 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Sounds like a good movie to watch how cultures borrow from one another, yet each has distinctive and unique characteristics. Makes it interesting for the country of origin and all other audiences. Thanks!




  • Donate

    If you enjoy this content and would like to support my ability to continue to update and increase the quality.




    error: Content is protected !!
    googlee35aeea982a1727f.html