With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island - theatrical release on March 6th, 2015

CJ Entertainment
Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island
Directed by KIM Hyun-seok
South Korea, 2015, 115 minutes

Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island will be released in the U.S. and in Canada in two days, on Friday, March 6th. For theaters and showtimes at the CJ Entertainment website, click here. This review is based on watching the Blu-ray version.

In this sequel to the 2011 hit film Detective K: Secret of the Virtuous Widow (which I haven't seen)KIM Myung-min and OH Dal-su reprise their respective roles of Kim-min (Detective K) and Seo-pil, his sidekick. The third lead is actress LEE Yeon-hee; she plays Hisako, a very popular geisha who has numerous other talents and an interesting backstory that is revealed late in the film.

Detective K (KIM Myung-min) and Seo-pil (OH Dal-su) on the run

The story begins in 1795, the 19th year of King Jeongjo's reign. At this time, the Joseon Dynasty was entirely dependent on import of silver from Japan. When lots of fake silver enters the market and threatens the nation's economy, Detective K and Seo-pil go undercover in gang of bandits. After successfully leading to the apprehension of the gang, Kim-min, instead of being rewarded, is banished to an islet where he's a virtual prisoner. (There's a suggestion that this was done because of the influence of a faction at the royal court, but the precise reason is not clear. Nor does it really matter.)

He is approached by a young girl named Da-hae who entreats him to find her missing sister Do-hoe. The detective refuses, citing his state of banishment. But eventually (in a segment that runs a bit too long in my opinion) he decides to leave the islet to investigate new counterfeit silver. This leads him to the Japanese settlement, through which all trade with Korea is conducted. Here he meets the mysterious geisha Hisako. Detective K's investigation broadens to include why the dead bodies of young Korean girls  are periodically washing onshore. All of this leads him -- and Seo-pil -- to travel to Dragon King Island, a mysterious place that everyone else avoids. But K is convinced that it holds the key not only to the counterfeit silver, but also to the disappearance and death of many young girls.

Hisako (LEE Yeon-hee)

One of the interesting things about the film is that Detective K is often -- actually quite often -- not as smart as he thinks he is, although he is loath to admit his mistakes. On the other hand, Seo-pil is often K's savior, displaying at these times greater common sense and resourcefulness.

There are a number of curious anachronisms. Detective K has made a Jip or Jip-o, a lighter that would seem to be a precursor to the once ubiquitous Zippo lighters. He also has what appears to be a wooden Rubik's cube and builds hang gliders (maybe he saw Leonardo da Vinci's drawings!). Clearly in this film, Detective K is a man far ahead of his time in several regards.

Seo-pil and Detective K take to the air

The film, which was the top pre-holiday weekend draw after it was released in South Korea on February 11th, is both a mystery and comedy, sort of a Korean Sherlock Holmes played for laughs. Overall, I'd say the humor comes across well. Call it a quite nicely amusing romp.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; a good film and a fun watch.

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