You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island’

The sequel to South Korean action-comedy 'Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Widow' is a mostly lackluster affair.

Kim Myung-min, Oh Dal-soo, Lee Yeon-hee, Lee Chae-eun, Choi Moo-sung, Jo Kwan-woo, Jung Won-joong, Lee Jung-eun, Kim Won-hae. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)
Release Date:
Mar 6, 2015

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4505170/?ref_=nv_sr_1

“Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island” is a disappointing follow-up to the far more sprightly “Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Widow” (2011), also helmed by Kim Sok-yun. Though not without some zingy segs, this South Korean period action-comedy-adventure — about a brilliant detective with a bumbling streak and his far more entertaining sidekick — is hampered by jarring tonal shifts and undisciplined plotting. The resulting mishmash rises just above the mediocre. Pic has hit paydirt locally with 3.9 million admissions since its Feb. 11 release, while U.S. box office performance, following a limited rollout on March 6, has been modest.

The titular character is Kim Min (Kim Myung-min), a brainy and occasionally inept late-18th-century combo of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes. According to pre-titles text info, the nobleman, inventor and master sleuth works on secret commands given by none other than the (unseen) Joseon dynasty monarch King Jeongjo. This time around, the ruler wants Kim to investigate fake silver from Japan that’s threatening to destabilize the Korean economy.

The script hits a snag from the outset with a way-too-long sequence showing Kim and sidekick Seo-pil (Oh Dal-soo) busting a bandit gang headed by a fearsome, unnamed boss (Choi Moo-sung). The story then suddenly leaps ahead six months with Kim now in exile on an island. With no explanation ever offered, it’s anyone’s guess as to why the king’s handpicked investigator has been banished after a successful mission.

Anyway, things get back on track with the appearance of Da-hae (Lee Chae-eun), an adorable moppet from the lowest class of society. The plucky and clever youngster has swum from the mainland to beg for Kim’s help in finding her missing sister. After brushing off the persistent kid, Kim receives clues about shady silver-related business in the Japanese settlement near Seoul, and with Seo-pil in tow, he slips away to the mainland. Though risking “death by poison” for absconding, Kim is given assistance and protection by an unnamed government bigwig (Jung Won-joong), further raising the question of why Kim was exiled in the first place.

The rest of the yarn is an alternately bumpy and smooth ride that frequently promises to kick into high gear but never quite gets there. On the plus side, there’s Kim’s contact with Hisako (Lee Yeon-hee), a Japanese-speaking, Korean-born geisha whose slinky moves and villainess potential bring a nice touch of spice to proceedings.

The film’s major stumbling block is the emerging connection between counterfeit silver production and Da-hae’s missing sibling. Hundreds of other girls have also gone missing and many are now washing up on ocean shores, and the sight of dozens of dead children hits the wrong note in what’s packaged as an action-adventure romp, and may prove very distressing to some viewers. All sea lanes eventually lead to the “cursed” location of Dragon King Island, where yet more extremely disturbing information about the kidnapped girls comes to light. On the brighter side, there are some exciting fight sequences and daring raids and rescues involving the inventions Kim is constantly dreaming up.

Keeping the film afloat through its numerous patches of choppy narrative water is the witty interplay between Kim and Seo-pil. The best moments usually involve the sidekick proving to be smarter and more practical than a boss who claims he can “process 18,000 things in the blink of an eye.” While Kim Myung-min is perfectly OK in the lead, he lacks that X factor to make Detective K a truly magnetic figure. Oh easily steals the show with his expressive face and perfect comic timing. The other actors don’t get much of a chance to shine, though Jo Kwan-woo scores a couple of good shots as a supposedly blind zither player whose true vocation is malevolent rather than melodious.

Pic is efficiently if unspectacularly directed, and attractively lensed by “Virtuous Widow” d.p. Jang Nam-cheol. Topnotch costuming and production design complete the glossy package.

Film Review: ‘Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island’

Reviewed online, Phnom Penh, March 22, 2015. (in Hong Kong Filmart.) Running time: 112 MIN. (Original title: “Joseon myungtamjung: Nobui ddal”)

Production: (South Korea) A CJ Entertainment (in U.S.)/Showbox/Mediaplex (in South Korea) release of a Showbox/Mediaplex presentation of a Generation Blue Films production. (International sales: Showbox/Mediaplex, Seoul.) Produced by Kim Jho Gwang-soo, Lee Sun-mi. Executive producer, You Jeong-hun.

Crew: Directed by Kim Sok-yun. Screenplay, Lee Nam-kyu, Kim Su-jin, based on characters created by Kim Takhwan in the novel “The Secret of the Virtuous Widow.” Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Jang Nam-cheol; editor, Im Sun-kyong; music, Kim Han-jo; production designer, Jang Chun-sub; costume designers, Kwon Yoo-jin, Rim Chung-hee; sound (Dolby Digital), Lee Sunj-jin, Lee Seung-Chul; special makeup effects, Hwang Hyo-kyun, Kwak Tae-yong; visual effects supervisor, Lee Sung-kyu; visual effects, Digital Idea, Filmwiz, W2Studios.

With: Kim Myung-min, Oh Dal-soo, Lee Yeon-hee, Lee Chae-eun, Choi Moo-sung, Jo Kwan-woo, Jung Won-joong, Lee Jung-eun, Kim Won-hae. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. More [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content