By Lee Hyo-won
Korea's favorite leading men Han Suk-kyu
and Cha Seung-won
team up in "Eye for an Eye
", an urban action flick that slithers with speed, style and substance.
Perfect crimes unfold in the tradition of the "Ocean's 11" trilogy, launching a "Public Enemy"-style cat and mouse game. Han dyes his hair silver and wears a matching gray suit and shiny Hermes belt to play the role of a suave yet gum chewing, foulmouthed detective ― the film is worth watching just to see the "Shiri
" (Swiri) (1998) star drive like a madman and mercilessly interrogate suspects.
Similar to the recent box office smash "Public Enemy Returns"
, veteran detective Baek is about to resign so he can set up his own business. But he has to postpone it when 1.8 billion won is stolen from a bank truck in broad daylight and then 600 kilograms of trafficked gold vanishes from an airport ― all under police surveillance. Someone had ingeniously impersonated Baek, and this proves to be a serious blow to the real Baek's ego.
The following day, Baek receives a package, a stash of cash signed to and from Baek. This "friendly" gesture is from the mastermind crime-ring head himself, Ahn Hyun-min (Cha). This MBA-holding former prison guard outsmarts Baek and thwarts his plans with finesse. To add fuel to his fury, Ahn has the nerve to leave blatant clues and even appear before him. Soon, Baek realizes that he is being used as a prawn in Ahn's master plan to attack a bigger enemy.
What could have stopped short of being a string of Hollywood conventions takes on a unique Korean streak. It oozes human drama inherent to traditional stories. Here, Ahn is obviously the bad guy, but Baek, who doesn't refrain from using violence to fish for clues, seems much more despicable. Unlike "Public Enemy", the cat and mouse here have a common enemy, the dog ― a wicked business tycoon who wronged them both. In Korean tales, even scary ghost stories, vengeful spirits are always understandable in the end, and Ahn is just a coolheaded Hamlet driven by filial piety to take revenge.
The movie takes viewers to different corners of local cities: Busan ports and markets, local jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) and pojang macha (street food stall) as well as a well-orchestrated car race through a busy Seoul business district. It also invites you to a gay bar. Actor Lee Byung-joon disguises his deep baritone voice to play "Antonio", a transvestite who speaks with a high-pitched purr and sports perfectly blow-dried hair and a ring on his pinky finger. His well-tamed character portrayal provides a subtle counterpoint to the two male leads.
The visuals capitalize on the long and lean silhouette of model-turned-actor Cha, who struts around in finely pressed suits, holding his weapon of choice, a torch. Ahn Kwon-tae
, 2004), who served as assistant director for Kwak Gyeong-taek
's hit film "Friend"
(2001), shot the first half of "Eye" before his mentor took over. The result is something swift and glossy, full of comic strip-like split screen technique found in "Tazza: The High Rollers" ("Tazza: The High Rollers
" - 2006).
In theaters July 31. 15 and over. 101 minutes. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.