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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cold Eyes"

2013/07/12

A highly organized gang of criminals engage in an expertly designed, high precision heist. Given how painstakingly detailed the plan seems to be, and what happens to the one criminal foolish enough to deviate from it by even a second, there was one thing I couldn't get. If the whole point of phase one was to trick people into thinking the bank robbers were actually government employees, why did the police arrive on the scene barely a minute after the crime was finished?

"Cold Eyes" is an action-packed thriller that gets all the bare minimums of the genre down accurately. It's not terrible. But it's just unremarkable enough that these kinds of pedantic questions dogged me throughout the movie. The story makes a huge point of the fact that both the villain and the special police unit that faces off with him really love plans. So why don't the plans make any sense?

I understand what the purpose of this movie is. It's just supposed to be a vehicle for chases and explosions. But it really wrecks the overall story when everything has to end in a cliched action sequence when for the most part cliched action sequences are what the characters are supposed to be trying to avoid. The villain hates them because they can't be planned, and the whole point of having a special police unit dedicating to skulking about in the shadows is so they can apprehend criminals without risking heavy collateral damage. So why is nearly every scene engineered to inevitably create one?

By contrast, the investigative portions are a strong point. An apparently random, inconsequential scene near the beginning of "Cold Eyes" is what gives the police the lead they need to track down the criminal gang. It's fun to watch them take the information from this one scene and slowly extrapolate it until they've finally unlocked the plan for the gang's next heist.

But questions still constantly come up about why the plans are only just complicated enough that they can be difficult without being impossible. What's the point, for example, of dividing up all the individual portions of a coded puzzle and then leaving them in the same trash bag? Why bother confronting a criminal face-to-face in an unarmed disguise when he has no more useful intelligence? The movie is trying to be smart, but its logic falls apart under the most basic scrutiny.

I've managed to go this entire review without even mentioning anything about the main character. I only bring her up now to establish that yes, her character really is that irrelevant in the greater story, and the villain isn't really much better. Their characterization falls into the same trap of being dictated more by the individual cliched moment than by any broader, more consistent theming. The movie expects us to remember old scenes, but not old motivation, and as a result comes off as really disjointed.

Now, for the movie viewer who doesn't care about whether the story makes sense, and just wants a vehicle that pieces all these various action cliches together? It's passable, I guess. There are explosions, decent action scenes, and good comic relief, but nothing really remarkable. "Cold Eyes" just isn't worth a whole lot of effort. For the most desperate of thriller fans only.

Review by William Schwartz

"Cold Eyes" is directed by Cho Ui-seok and Kim Byeong-seo and features Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung and Han Hyo-joo.

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