Confidential Assignment doesn’t reinvent the Buddy Cop genre, but does enough to cement its place within it
FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2017 REVIEW
The mismatched comedic interaction between the straight-man and the buffoon is a tried and tested formula, you could say that buddy cop films have been done to death, and yet, they continue to win audiences over.
We lap them up, and whether it’s revisiting classics like Red Heat or embracing new films like The Nice Guys, it’s this familiarity and assuredness of the genre that makes them so addictive. Kim Sung-hoon’s “Confidential Assignment” doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but manages to play to the strengths of the genre, while dabbling in other areas, to create an entertaining piece of cinema.
The plot centres around South Korean detective Kang Jin-tae (Yoo Hae-jin), a clumsy and frantic man who portrays a mix of every over the top South Korean detective/cop you may have seen before. If you’re new to South Korean cinema, then imagine the most erratic, outspoken caricature of a man, who typically dispenses physicality as well as verbal abuse just as much as he receives it.
As is quite often the case, the slapstick detective usually ends up attached to a high profile case because deep down, the chief has no choice. Contrary to his better judgement, the obtuse detective will get results, and the lack of choice usually ends in the right choice.
He’s been partnered up with straight-faced, North Korean Army Captain Lim Chul-ryung (Hyun Bin), to track down the defected North Korean Army Officer Cha Ki-sung (Kim Joo-hyuk), who has made a break for it with plates that enable him to print “superdollars”. Gaps in the plot begin to emerge from the beginning, but they can be glossed over for the most part as we launch into a quietly grim revenge story that borders on Thriller territory for reasons best left unsaid.
Lim Chul-ryung gives off this Dan Stevens/Keanu Reeves vibe (from their roles in The Guest and John Wick respectively), as a brooding, seemingly indestructible but determined individual hell-bent on catching Cha Ki-sung. While he says very little, he is easily the most entertaining aspect of this film. For the next 2 hours, this mismatched duo smashes about town in well-choreographed fight sequences, each enforcing their own agenda from their own governments, culminating in an ending that could have arrived about 30 minutes sooner.
It seemed like it was trying to do too much, with too many build-ups to false finishes and attempting to explore too many subplots instead of just picking one or two. However, even with these flaws, I still found plenty to love about this film.
The cinematography in Confidential Assignment was excellent (but with some questionable CGI in places) avoiding the usual high number of nauseous shaky camera cuts we so frequently encounter in films of this nature. The fight sequences were effective, and call it slightly morbid but it’s always refreshing to see our central characters sustain injuries in these elaborate encounters – it’s only natural that they do so.
Perhaps one of the main reoccurring flaws was how inconsistent the script was, I really wanted to love it, but when the duo was alone, there were glimpses of real humour that helped to draw me back in.
“Confidential Assignment” sets out what it intended to achieve. It’s an entertaining battle between good and evil, formed on the basis of a compelling albeit slightly drawn-out story with a variety of action sequences, all set among the petty bickering and nonsense you love to encounter in the classic buddy cop movies. If you have the patience, you will be rewarded with this film. It’s nothing revolutionary, but then that’s the beauty of this genre.
Played @ Fantasia Film Festival on July 16th, 2017