Review: ‘Secret Reunion’

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.

Secret Reunion

South Korea


A Showbox, Mediaplex presentation, in association with Michigan Venture Capital, Asia Culture Technology Investment, Gemini Investment Corp., CJ Investment, of a Showbox, Mediaplex production, in association with Rubicon Pictures. (International sales: Showbox, Seoul.) Produced by Song Myung-chul, Jang Won-suk. Executive producer, Ryu Jeong-hun. Directed by Jang Hun. Screenplay, Kim Joo-ho, Choi Kwan-young, Jang, based on a story by Jang Min-seok.


Camera (color, widescreen), Lee Mo-gae; editor, Nam Na-Young; music, Rho Jyung-woo Hyung-woo; production designer, Hwang In-joon; costume designer, Ok Su-kyung; sound (Dolby Digital), Choi Tae-young. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, March 28, 2010. (In Hong Kong Filmart.) Running time: 116 MIN.


Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Jeon Gook-hwan. (Korean, Vietnamese dialogue)

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety