Confidential Assignment – A MediaConneX Film Review
Korean political, crime thriller’s timely release in wake of assassination headlines
In these current days of worldwide, political insanity, the last thing people could imagine is North Korea and South Korea working together. That’s exactly what happens in Confidential Assignment (<공조> Korean: Gong-jo), the second feature film outing for South Korean director, Kim Sung-hoon (A Wonderful Moment).
Confidential Assignment stars Hyun-Bin (Late Autumn, The Fatal Encounter) as Im Cheol-Ryung, a handsome, North Korean detective sent to South Korea to pursue criminal, North Korean defector Cha Ki-seong (Kim Joo-hyuk of My Wife Got Married). However, North Korea abruptly re-establishing diplomatic relations to pursue something of, as relatively low importance as a killer, raises suspicions. South Korea decides to pair Detective Lim with a local detective to impede his investigation while they try to discover North Korea’s true motivations.
Enter Kang Jin-tae (Yoo Hae-jin, Veteran), a kind-hearted, but woefully incompetent, police detective living a modest life in Seoul. Pudgy, aging Detective Kang is a stark contrast to the athletic, good-looking, coldly inhuman Detective Lim. But of course, this is a buddy-cop film, and having mismatched teammates working together is almost a necessary requirement for the genre.
As a matter of fact, the biggest criticism of Confidential Assignment is that it will feel very familiar to someone that frequently watches South Korean films. The movie was exciting but still felt safe and by the numbers. Checking off all the boxes, it has the nagging but beautiful wife (Jang Young-nam), overly adorable child (Park Min-Ha) and lazy, freeloading, 20-something (K pop star Yoonah of Girls Generation). Fortunately, these characters do fit in well as they manage to add elements of comedy and melodrama to film full of action.
Confidential Assignment has no shortage of exciting action sequences, gun battles, and heart-pounding, suspenseful chases. Hyun-Bin proves to be a convincing action star during his fight scenes, and Kim Joo-hyuk’s chewing portrayal as the sinister and cruel defector Cha makes one wish he had more screen time.
The film does have its shortcomings, however, like how some things did not make logical sense. For example, Detective Kang is portrayed as an incompetent police officer, yet he is tasked with handling one of the most important diplomatic cooperation to happen between the two Koreas in over 50 years. Also, while Detectives Im and Kang experience a lot together, it is difficult to feel any genuine bonding or chemistry between the two. By the end of the movie, they’re ready to die for each other, but where in the movie that special bond formed is hard to tell. Finally, while the film is generally well paced, the ending, though satisfying, could have been a bit tighter.
Confidential Assignment is a product of South Korean production company JK Films, which has been on a roll as of late with Korean blockbusters, The Himalayas and Ode to My Father. Released in South Korea just before the Lunar New Year, Confidential Assignment has been a hit domestically and is continuing to roll out into theatrical markets worldwide.