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

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content