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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Spy"

2013/09/06 | 1061 views | Permalink

At one point in this movie, a character, besieged by attackers, aims his gun at an ordinary household object. Upon firing, the object explodes. The discriminating viewer may ask themselves at this point, would that particular item actually explode if all you did was fire a gun at it? This question having been broached, I leave it to you to ask yourself "do I care?"

"The Spy" is a rollicking comedy action flick which does a good job demonstrating how just because a movie relies on dumb cliches and predictable plot twists doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad movie. I've probably seen just about every physical and narrative stunt in this movie somewhere before. But seeing them again here feels less like a rip-off, and more like a hearty welcome from old friends. Why yes, movie, I would like to watch Sol Kyung-gu beat up half a dozen CIA agents with pistol whips, thank you for anticipating my wishes.

Sol Kyung-gu plays Cheol-Soo, a South Korean spy who is skilled at doing exactly one thing- beating people up. He's almost completely lacking in stealth, subtlety, professionalism, planning or the skills necessary for being a good husband. The discordance between his competent and incompetent selves is the source of most of the movie's humor. The jokes aren't terribly clever- but they're funny, especially as he constantly has to transition from his bumbling, impulsive doofus persona into being an action hero.

"The Spy" also has enough sense to laugh at itself, and not pretend to exist in the world of serious thrillers. About half the scenes in the Korean intelligence headquarters just consist of the boss yelling angrily at his subordinates for managing to screw up yet another operation. Several different intelligence groups are present in this film, and every last one of them manages to botch whatever they're trying to do rather fantastically. The movie has little respect for the dignity of these agents, contrasting their outrageously complicated spy technology with the terrible decisions being made by whoever's actually supposed to be controlling it at any given moment.

Daniel Henney also deserves a mention here as the villain Ryan. His acting is honestly not very good. But the beauty of "The Spy" is that it's not a movie where good acting will help- the context of every scene is just too ridiculous. Ask yourself something. Would you rather see Daniel Henney doing a serious impassioned portrayal of an international super spy, or would you rather he give big smiles and mug his handsomeness to the camera, while doing stuff so comically evil it makes you wonder how good the benefits plan must be for employees in his organization?

This is an adorably fun, goofy movie that knows exactly what it is. Its emotional sentiments and intents are so obviously telegraphed that silly sound effects could improve them. "The Spy" is a live-action cartoon that doesn't do much to challenge the intellect. But absent any greater pretensions, it's still a nice mixture of low-level action comedy that makes for a fun, breezy run-time.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Spy" is directed by Lee Seung-joon-I and features Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri and Daniel Henney.

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