The Korean buddy-cop movie gets a North/South political veneer.
The Korean buddy-cop movie gets a North/South political veneer in “Secret Reunion,” the second film by Kim Ki-duk protege Jang Hun. Song Kang-ho brings his usual entertaining schtick to the role of a South Korean agent who pursues, then teams up with, a taciturn Northern spy (Gang Don-won), in a pic that moves easily from espionage to comedy-marbled melodrama. Pic, which opened like gangbusters in February, knocking “Avatar” off the top of the South Korean B.O., is too commercial for fests, but Song’s international fanbase may spark a minor ancillary following.
Young undercover North Korean agent Song Ji-won (Gang) accompanies a ruthless veteran assassin, known as Shadow (Jeon Gook-hwan), to take down a defector and his family in Seoul. Going against his orders, Ji-won balks at killing a child just as South Korean special agents led by Lee Han-kyu (Song Kang-ho) arrive. Both Shadow and Ji-won slip away, but not before Han-kyu catches a glimpse of the younger agent.
Six years later, Han-kyu, who was fired for his failure, now runs a detective agency specializing in retrieving runaway foreign wives. While working on a case, Han-kyu spots Ji-won; the recognition is mutual, but both act as if it’s their first encounter.
Hoping Ji-won will lead him to the still-at-large Shadow, Han-kyu offers him a job as a live-in operative. Fun, games and brotherly rivalry ensue, while the script bides its time developing the inevitable crisis as Han-kyu plans to force Shadow out into the open.
Pic reps a neat enhancement of the buddy-cop movie tradition that has flourished in South Korea since the “Two Cops” series of the early ’90s. Like its predecessors, the yarn relies heavily on the charm of its two leads: Despite Song’s tendency to overshadow his co-stars with his aggressive yet amicable persona, Gang (“Voice of a Murderer”) holds his own as the intense Northern spy on the lam.
Delivering a more polished package than his helming debut, “Rough Cut,” Jang excels in the pic’s fast-paced opening and finale; he proves less adept at handling the lighthearted getting-to-know-you midsection, which, like similar sequences in other North/South Korean pics (such as Park Chan-wook’s “JSA”), are there to remind local auds that — Shadow’s ruthlessness not withstanding — the folks across the border are human, too.
Tech credits are at the usual high Korean standard.