By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Do setups get more ripe for fish out of water shenanigans than North Korean/South Korean buddy cop movie?
Yeah, not sure how this will work, either.
That’s exactly what Confidential Assignment has to offer up, as North Korean badass Officer Lim (Hyun Bin) joins up with an unconventional but effective South Korean career cop Office Kang (Yu Hae-jin) to pursue the ex-special forces defectors who killed his wife and stole a set of impeccable 100$ counterfeiting plates.
Confidential Assignment has a likable central duo in the uniquely goofy-faced Yu Hae-jin and the impossibly cut Hyun Bin and that interesting if unlikely premise (this movie is all about Korean peninsular brotherhood and mutual regard, but we’re not likely to see a North Korean soldier running around Seoul anytime too soon).
Beyond that duo, I appreciated the interestingly complex motivations for the defector criminals/ex-special forces from North Korea, and despite a smidge of dodgy CGI, the action direction is otherwise pretty excellent, with some top-notch set pieces. Finally, this copy had an unusually great translation- the wordplay was successful in a large part because the idioms and slang were perfectly transposed into their American equivalents. Between this action and wordplay, all the ingredients for an at least moderately successful buddy cop film are here in spades.
The screenwriters don’t really play to the fish out of water piece at all, though. Largely it’s played straight, particularly by Hyun’s Officer Lim. Despite not really leaning into the comedy like you’d expect, the film largely follows the buddy cop template set out for it by Lethal Weapon on down, though. If I made “spot the cliche” the drinking game, none of y’all would live.
For being as seemingly important to every person and country involved in the movie, the characters treat the counterfeiting plates awfully goddamn nonchalantly. More than once, different characters that have zero motivation to let the plates go and all the reason in the world to prevent that from happen just… let people walk off with them. It’s bizarre.
Perhaps it was the North & South Korean buddy cop premise, but I was still invested in Confidential Assignment all the way through despite its various real issues.
Confidential Assignment (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Detective Lin glowers at someone
Take a Drink: whenever somebody mentions how hot he his
Take a Drink: whenever Detective Kang mugs or makes a funny noise
Do a Shot: whenever we see the counterfeiting plates