Fantasia 2010: SECRET REUNION Review

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
Fantasia 2010:  SECRET REUNION Review
[In light of its screening at Fantasia, we are bumping up Mark Popham's review of the Song Kang-Ho action vehicle, Secret Reunion, to the top of the page.]

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

  • 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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