Confidential Assignment

Director:  Kim Sung-hoon
Year: 2017
Rating: 6.5

Tell me if you have heard this plot before. Two cops are assigned to work together who have nothing in common, who have very different approaches to their job, who don't like each other but over time they grudgingly realize they have to work together, then a grudging respect for another, then a grudging friendship and finally risking their lives for one another. No? Probably not more than fifty times. That is what we have here where you could write the plot outline yourself. But nevertheless, this is fairly entertaining because of good performances, solid production values and some excellent action sequences. The rub is that one of the cops is a North Korean super cop while the other is a bit of a South Korean schlep. So you have the political divide as well though this was done in Hong Kong films going back to the 1990's when they would team up a Hong Kong cop and Mainland cop. Like those, this one is a mix of action, comedy and a jigger of pathos.

These sorts of films are made in Korea whenever the two countries are attempting a reconcilement as is happening now. A similar film of re-approachment was As One in 2012 about the uniting of the two ping pong teams based on a real event. On the other hand when the two countries are at each other's throats you get a film like Shiri or The Presidents' Last Bang which portrays the North as villains. It is a fascinating dynamic. For the most part - though not entirely - the North is given respect here. At one point the two men get into an argument about which country is better and it is basically a draw. Though being equally poor doesn't strike me as a great argument.

But the trouble begins in the North where the government has created a set of $100 plates that can make counterfeit bills that cannot be detected. In fact, North Korea has a history of doing this - though I understand that Kim told Trump that they have never done this and that Trump accepted his word. Also no labor camps, starvation and executions by canon ball - all denied and all believed. Hollywood should make a film in which our CIA teams up with their Security apparatus to get the goods on the Canadians. And Donald and Kim give each other a big hug in the end. Putin is smiling in the background.

A renegade North Korean army unit decides that they want to join the free market and breaks into the facility and steals the plates leaving everyone for dead except Lim (Hyun Bin) who blames himself for screwing up - which he did - you never give up your guns because the bad guys have a hostage - never - rule number 1 with psychos. So he is assigned to go south and find the head villain (Kim Joo-hyuk) and since they need the co-operation of the South he is partnered with the whiny, a little corrupt, a little cowardly Kang (Yoo Hae-jin). This is done on purpose because the Big Boys don't really want the North Koreans to find these bad guys. But hey, you know how this ends. And though predictable it is reasonably satisfying.

Yoo Hae-jin gets somewhat annoying as the film progresses as he complains about everything but Hyun Bin is terrific though being a North Korean he doesn't get to show much emotion. His physical abilities and stunts (pretty sure not doubled) are eye-popping. The film sags a bit in the middle when Kang brings Lim home to meet the family and the goofy comedy misses its mark as often as it hits it but the final 40 minutes is just one great action set piece and saved the film for me.