Movie Reviews – Sworn Brothers

Korea Times and Korea Herald have the movie reviews of Sworn Brothers. Since I like “Rough Cut”, I think I will like this movie 🙂

LOL, no idea why Korea Herald titled it as “Secret Reunion”… o_O

There’s actually another movie review that I managed to find on MNET Japan, but since it is a very long review (2 parts), I didnt go and read it all. I only read the first paragraph and the reviewer over there commented that watching this movie reminded him/her of JSA. 🙂

‘Brothers’ Offers Bittersweet ‘Bromance’

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

A story about North and South Korean spies called “Blood Brothers” may initially seem like mawkish cliche capitalizing on the tragic divide of the peninsula.

But pleasantly surprising, bona fide entertainment is on offer ― an incisive observation of modern Korea that is tastefully packaged as a humorous and gripping story of a budding “bromance” between foes.

North Korean secret agent Ji-won (Kang Dong-won) crosses the 38th Parallel on a big mission to assassinate a comrade who has betrayed the regime. When the National Intelligence Service (NIS) led by Han-gyu (Song Kang-ho) intervenes, a shooting rampage ensues in the heart of Seoul.

Both parties suffer losses but the adept Northerner completes his assignment and escapes, while Han-gyu, having failed miserably, is fired. Ji-won, however, is suspected as having manipulated the operation and is also deserted by his agency.

Six years have passed and Han-gyu makes a living running a third-rate private eye business, catching runaway immigrant housewives rather than enemies of the state, while Ji-won leads a renegade life, all the while trying to get in touch with his squad.

The two cross paths by chance and they immediately recognize each other from the fateful incident; each believing that their own identity has not been compromised they wear smiles and start a business partnership in order to steal information from the other.

Over the course of the two-way spying, however, they come to realize that they have much in common. But just as they start opening their hearts to each other, Pyongyang contacts Ji-won for his last mission and the duo stands at a crossroads.

Chang Hoon, the Kim Ki-duk apprentice who made a stellar directorial debut with “Rough Cut,” solidifies his reputation: He is a gamely leading wheel on this action-tricycle, of which the rear set is fiercely propelled by the acting duo.

The film focuses on showing the human side of the two rivals, and is essentially a story about family. Han-gyu toils his pitiful job in order to support his daughter living abroad: “I lost a family-like colleague but I still have to feed my real family,” he sighs. Likewise Ji-won desperately tries to win back the trust of his agency because he has left behind a wife and daughter in the North.

In addition to the North-South divide, “Brothers” sheds light on other dark issues ― the cancers of a materially rich yet morally challenged society such as domestic violence, overlooked immigrant population and the traps of capitalism. But these are sown into an intriguing narrative filled with episodic humor, giving the film a light, palatable texture and a sweet, rather than bitter, aftertaste.

As described by the director, the project is indeed “an assorted gift set of Song Kang-ho-style acting”: the lead actor offers everything from physical farce to witty lines and myriad facial expressions to tickle the audience with laughter.

Kang, who is enjoying both critical acclaim and box office success with “Woochi,” stumbles somewhat in his attempt to feign a suppressed northern dialect, but is nevertheless compelling ― twiggy physique and all ― with his piercing gaze and stolid facade.

Funnyman Go Chang-seok also peppers the film with humor in a supporting role.

In theaters Feb. 4. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.

Source: The Korea Times

‘Secret Reunion’ goes beyond spy drama

Early in “Secret Reunion,” a clever tale of two marginalized men, middle-aged anti-spy agent Han-kyu (Song Kang-ho) ruefully complains about how the external world is “inconsistent” in driving him to the wall.

His job is to track down and arrest North Korean spies, but when one of the missions he leads fails miserably, his superiors, mindful of their own job security, rush to put all the blame on the working-level officer. Han-kyu’s half-comic and half-saddening comment about his sorry state not only showcases Song’s trademark acting skill but also highlights the film’s message.

Han-kyu’s opposite is Ji-won (Kang Dong-won), an extremely handsome and intelligent North Korean spy who carries out a mission through encrypted messages sent via e-mails.

On their first encounter, they get a brief glimpse of each other without knowing they end up in an embarrassing situation six years later. After all, the center of attention on that fateful day was elsewhere. A super-charged North Korean agent nicknamed “Shadow” leaves several South Korean agents and innocent civilians dead in the broad daylight in Seoul.

So far, a typical spy drama based on decades-old inter-Korean espionage. Fortunately for the audiences, director Jang Hoon, who scored a hit with the 2008 sleeper “Rough Cut,” shifts gears drastically when the clock advances by six years when the two main characters are set to meet again.

Han-kyu’s present life is not pretty. He lost his job as part of restructuring efforts at the anti-spy agency and got divorced. He occasionally talks to his daughter on the phone and sends money to his ex-wife.

Han-kyu’s current job is functionally the same as the old one: tracking down people. He runs a sort of private detective agency, and he charges Korean farmers for hunting down runaway Vietnamese or other foreign brides.

Ji-won’s life in the South is equally disappointing. The high-profile incident six years ago was chaotic in execution, resulting in confusion about who did what wrong. What is clear, at least for the North Korean authorities who control the spy operations against the South, is that Ji-won should take the blame, a sorry conclusion not dissimilar to what had happened to Han-kyu.

The two men, both ignored, sidelined and marginalized happen to live together for a while, each dreaming of a different outcome. The camera keeps throwing hints about how far removed the two men are from their dreams, while interspersing funny moments with some action sequences to spice up the otherwise melodramatic mood of the second half.

Jang might have been tempted to crank up the socio-political criticism to a higher level, but he wisely did not opt for that obvious track. Instead, he focuses on the basic human emotions flowing from people whose social status turns into that of outsiders overnight.

Song masterfully delivers what he is supposed to do for the tricky character. Han-kyu seems deeply world-weary but never loses his sense of self-deprecating humor. Even when he accidentally traps himself in his own apartment, his awkward facial expression appears genuine and earnest, turning that particular scene all the more hilarious.

Kang, who also stars in the current box-office film “Jeon Woo Chi,” manages to bring to life a North Korean agent whose empathy is extraordinary, but some may find his character a tad unrealistic due to his glamorous appearance that is not suitable for a super-secret agent.

“Secret Reunion” is scheduled to open nationwide on Feb. 4.

Source: Korea Herald


One thought on “Movie Reviews – Sworn Brothers

  1. thank you for sharing that. now i can’t wait to watch the movie especially with Song Kang Ho in it. i also love Rough Cut.

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