November 26, 2010

Secret Reunion (Hun Jang, 2010)

Part of my Koran film fixation, Secret Reunion, my next movie, is one of the films I’m the most looking forward to in this year’s festival. It’s director Jang Hun’s sophomore effort, after last year’s Rough Cut (2008), my favorite film of 2009, and comes with a tremendous buzz as a blockbuster king in South Korea and one of this year’s most notable Korean films.

Kang-ho Song, from The Host and Thirst fame, stars as Lee Han-kyu, a federal agent who, in the midst of searching for local spies from North Korea, loses his job because of his obsessive relation to his work. When, a few years later, he meets a young spy who had escaped previously, Ji-won, they both pretend not to remember so they can keep an eye on one another. Very reminiscent of the Hong Kong slew of male-centric cerebral thrillers like The Killer (John Woo, 1989) and Infernal Affairs (Wai-keung Lau & Alan Mak, 2002), Secret Reunion, although of an impeccable aesthetic caliber for an action film, seems internationally dated somehow with its ideas of North-South Cold War. Furthermore, without Kim Ki-duk’s artistically inclined influence on the screenplay like it was in Rough Cut, the characters Hung plays around here seem simplistically pastiche, from the opinionated and devoted federal agent who, like Cassandra, no one listens to, to the misunderstood spy and his longing for a better life. It’s oddly too reminiscent of Hollywood fare in neglecting to give ample substance to both sides.

But in terms of its construction, of its aesthetic, of its energy, its budget, and its beautiful stars, Secret Reunion is on the better side of the blockbuster divide.