With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, February 13, 2012

ACF 1349: Korean spy thriller SECRET REUNION reviewed; Free screening on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Korean Cultural Service
Korean Movie Night 
Series 1: Jang Hun Plus One! 
 Secret Reunion / Ui-hyeong-je
Directed by JANG Hun
South Korea, 2010, 116 minutes
When: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 7:00 PM
Doors open: 6:30 PM
Where: Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street, on the corner of Canal Street, NYC
Near the A, C, E @ #1 Canal Street subway stops
Admission: FREE!!!
All seating is first-come, first served

Song Kang Ho (Thirst, The Host, Secret Sunshine, J.S.A.: Joint Security Area) is probably the Korean actor most familiar to American audiences. Here, in director Jang Hun's sophomore effort, he plays Lee Han-kyu, a South Korean National Intelligence Service agent. Lee is pitted against Song Ji-won (portrayed by actor Gang Dong-Won), a North Korean agent who's part of a three-man assassination team.

Lee decides not to call in back-up when an opportunity arises to bust the spy ring, and things go all to hell. The leader and Song get away and only the third member of the team is captured. Lee is forced into ignominious retirement, and Song is left all on his own.

The film flashes forward a few years to find Lee leading a motley crew that locates young women from other Asian countries who have fled the Korean husbands they were made to marry. Song is happily working construction, hoping to one day reunite with his wife and child in the North. They recognize one another, but neither one gives the other the slightest hint of this. Lee, hoping to finally bust the spy ring and redeem himself, gets Song to become his partner, replacing two incompetent employees Lee has let go.

Song Kang Ho is always a delight to watch. He strikes me as a contemporary Korean version of the kind of everyman character associated with many roles played by Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, and Tom Hanks. Here, once again, he raises the level of the material just by virtue of his likeability.

Not that the material in any way is shabby, quite the contrary. Secret Reunion is a captivating tale with many humorous elements. It's enjoyable throughout and concludes with a sweet and satisfying ending.

ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.

The above review, in slightly different form, appeared in ACF 602 (June 30, 2010), prior to the film's screenings at that year's New York Asian Film Festival.

For another take on Secret Reunion, check out Patrick Galloway's October 2010 review by clicking here. Galloway is a writer I greatly respect and admire. I own and treasure the three books on Asian cinema that he's written to date.

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