Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
[Our thanks to Mark Popham for the following review.]

You probably wouldn't expect to find a compelling exploration of the effects of the North Korean/South Korean conflict in a buddy action film, but SECRET REUNION isn't BEVERLY HILLS COP.

Hun Jang's film manages to be, in turns, action-packed, touching, funny and a compelling glimpse of how the divisions of Korea mutilates the lives of citizens on both sides of the DMZ. You would think that a movie that includes the brutal murder of innocents as well as a joke about a loose chicken would feel uneven at best, and in incredibly poor taste in all likelihood, but SECRET REUNION manages to pull together a lot of disparate parts.

Except for the karaoke video-style "becoming friends to music" montage that pops up. That never really does it for me, but I understand it to be, in Korean cinema, the cost of doing business.

We first meet South Korean intelligence agent Lee (Song Kang-ho) and North Korean spy Ji-Won (Kang Dong-wan) on the eve of a major North Korean operation to assassinate Kim Jong-Il's defector cousin. Lee is attempting to hunt down Shadow (Gook-hwan Jeong), a cold-blooded NK assassin that Ji-Won is assisting. After all of the dust settles, the defector and several South Korean agents are dead, Shadow has escaped and both Ji-Won and Lee have been disgraced in the eyes of their respective agencies.

Six years later, Lee- now working as a private investigator specializing in retrieving runaway mail-order brides- blunders into Ji-Won, who remains in exile from North Korean and his wife and child there. Lee, believing that Ji-Won doesn't know who he is, hires him to assist in his wife-retrieval service, hoping to catch Ji-Won communicating with a spy ring; likewise, Ji-Won, unaware of Lee's fall from grace, works and lives with him in hopes of securing his return to the North. The odd couple slowly begin a tenuous friendship- but when the deadly Shadow reappears, both parties have to re-examine their loyalties.

The acting is great throughout- Song Kang-ho manages to project both street-smart competence and pitiful bumbling, and Jeong Gook-hwan is chilling as a sort of professorial Anton Chigurh, managing insane escapes by dint of being balls-out insane- and the action sequences are well-shot and executed in the
Infernal Affairs style. The ending might wrap up a little bit too neatly for my tastes, but if that's my only complaint about a thoughtful and funny action movie, I'll definitely take it.

SECRET REUNION screens at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, Friday, July 2nd, and Saturday, July 3rd. Click here for more info and tickets!

Secret Reunion

  • Hun Jang
  • Min-seok Jang (story)
  • Joo-ho Kim (screenplay)
  • Kwang-young Choi (screenplay)
  • Hun Jang (screenplay)
  • Kang-ho Song
  • Dong-won Kang
  • Yun-seo Choi
  • Kyeong-min Go
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Hun JangMin-seok JangJoo-ho KimKwang-young ChoiKang-ho SongDong-won KangYun-seo ChoiKyeong-min GoDramaThriller

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