Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Korean Films: These Are Watching You (2013 Week 27)

Cold Eyes

The Special Crime Department of the Korean police is led by Hwang Sang-jun, a detective who tracks down criminals thanks to his instinct. A new recruit, Ha Yoon-ju, who demonstrates an exceptional memory and sense of observation, joins his team. Both they must work as a team to capture a dangerous robbing organization headed by the cautious and very discreet "James."

The buddy-movie’s concept applied to a thriller movie necessarily seems rather unoriginal, but the trailer focuses more on teamwork between the two investigators that their disputes. It also seems that the impressive skills of Ha Yoon-ju are actually used narratively in interesting ways. However, there is no information on the screenwriter credited on the film, which is always a bad sign. It is co-directed by Kim Byeong-seo, whose first feature this is, and Jo Ui-seok, who gave us The World of Silence in 2006. The cast is particularly strong, with Seol Gyeong-gu, who I think everyone remembers as the main protagonist in Peppermint Candy (1999), but he also already acted a cop with expeditious methods in the Public Enemy trilogy (2002, 2005, 2008). As for Han Hyo-ju, everyone now recognizes her as the queen of Masquerade (2012), but she also signed an excellent performance in Ad-Lib Night (2006). I shouldn’t forget to mention the beautiful face of Jung Woo-sung (Beat in 1997, The Good, The Bad, The Weird in 2008), whose appearance in a new movie is reason enough to buy a ticket for a large number of fans. The critics consider this film as an honest thriller without being exceptional, which is still the best opinion they had these last weeks, and its presence in almost all multiplex theaters should make of it a sure success.

Watch the Korean trailer here.


The Yalu River, which marks the border between North Korea and China, reaches in some places only 48 meters wide. This is why many people trying to flee the communist dictatorship try their luck crossing the river when it freezes in winter. But soldiers are constantly posted in these critical areas, with orders to shoot anyone trying to cross the border, regardless of their age.

Since I saw a documentary following the path of North Korean refugees from the Yalu River to Seoul, I was convinced that it would sooner or later adapted into a South Korean dramatic film. This one will look at different characters who all have their particular situation that causes them to flee, and as long as the director avoids burdening the already naturally present pathos, it could be really interesting. Seriously, the worse that can be done in honor to these victims would be to rely on some cheap dramatic devices. I hope that in any case many South Koreans will make the effort to go see this film which is on a different level than those to which they are accustomed; maybe the negative image of the North Korean immigrant could improve a little. The film is directed by Min Baek-du, whose only other film in which he took part is Marrying High School Girl (2004) for its scenario, which is not necessarily a great sign.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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