Buddy films might just never stop being popular. Even when the work is not mainly about that pairing, it will in some ways be present. There is just something about two people bonding across their differences and frustration with each other that appeals to audiences. 'The Gifted Hands' combines a crime thriller and buddy film, but the latter function is definitely the main one.
When he fails to save a child from being murdered by a serial killer, detective Choon-dong (Kim Kang-woo) sets off to catch him on his own and save the next victim. When he looks at the crime scene, Choon-dong realizes a young mysterious graffiti artist he saw a while back had painted the crime down to every detail on a wall, before the crime was committed. The young man, called Joon (Kim Beom), is revealed to have the power of psychometry, being able to see things about an object or person through touch. Choon-dong tries to enlist Joon's help to catch the serial killer and save the kidnapped child.
Despite the kidnapping and murders not being the main draw of the film, it does pretty well with that part of its plot, as it has all the necessary elements to make it engaging. Most will worry over a child, the investigative process is made highly suspenseful with a couple of well placed chases and as portrayed though Choon-dong's emotional reactions to it and the killer is very unsettling when he does appear. An overall good production and the good cast do not disappoint here.
In its main appeal, the movie really hits all the right notes. We have a slightly naive, but good-hearted cop who is shunned by his peers, a mysterious young man who in behavior is the polar opposite to the protagonist and a brotherly bond based on a common goal and past trauma. The characters are written with just enough baggage and emotion to not be overly corny, at least for the most part, and the chemistry elevates this. The writing already makes the characters' personalities quite different, but Kim Kang-woo and Kim Beom also act that out very well, one being more lively and emotive, the other a perfect fit for his traumatized introvert persona.
The movie does shows its weakness a bit when there is a crisis in the relationship, as it is not conveyed very well and the plot does not spend enough time with the characters working through it, as the time to focus on the crime part comes. Joon's ability is a fun addition, but it is not used often enough to feel like anything more than a reason for the two characters to meet and to provide some easy solutions down the road. It is a bit regrettable that the kidnapping part of the story is not given more time throughout, as Park Hyuk-kwon is excellent in his role and focusing on a male friendship while a child is in danger also feels a bit too odd a way to prioritize at times.
However, since the film is above all a buddy one, the crime part being secondary in terms of importance is to be expected. What could have been improved though is the way the investigative process is done. Because the focus is on the male bonding, the police work shown is often sketchy and has its plot holes, as well as bad pacing, at times.
'The Gifted Hands' is not groundbreaking, but it is a perfectly enjoyable buddy film with a twist. There is some action, a solid suspense part, some humor and even a superpower gimmick. The acting is good for its type and male leads attractive, making the pairing inviting to all kinds of viewers. Overall, it is an entertaining film well worth a look.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Gifted Hands""
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