‘Confidential Assignment’: Film Review

Confidential Assignment Still 3 - Publicity - H 2017
CJ Entertainment

Confidential Assignment Still 3 - Publicity - H 2017

Lightweight, but serviceable.

Kim Sung-hoon’s hybrid thriller brings together operatives from South and North Korea for a comically convoluted joint investigation.

Revisiting the frequently tense relationship between Seoul and Pyongyang, director Kim Sung-hoon (My Little Hero) lightens things up a bit with Confidential Assignment, a comedic thriller featuring mismatched cops working at cross-purposes on a clandestine case. As buddy movies go, it never hits the heights of hilarity displayed by exemplars of the subgenre, but after a solid domestic opening, CJ Entertainment’s U.S. release may still prompt action fans to respond. 

After inept police detective Gang Jin-tae (Yoo Hai-jin, Tazza: The Hidden Card) screws up yet another investigation, his boss somehow decides that he’s the best candidate for a high-level assignment with the federal intelligence service shadowing a North Korean operative visiting Seoul with a high-level government delegation. Army captain Lim Cheol-ryeong (Hyun Bin, Late Autumn) has been assigned to track down rogue officer Cha Gi-seong (Kim Joo-hyuck, Like for Likes), who has fled to the South with the Pyongyang government’s printing plates for producing superior-quality counterfeit $100 bills. Known as “superdollars” for their ability to avoid detection, the fake currency could destabilize international relations if traced back to the North Korean regime.

Close-mouthed Lim, under strict orders not to divulge his mission to recover the stolen superdollar plates, doesn’t tell Gang that Cha is his former commanding officer or that his superior murdered Lim’s wife during the heist. Since Gang is tasked with discovering the purpose of Lim’s investigation, he’ll somehow have to wheedle the information out of his counterpart before Lim is required to return to the North in just three days' time. The unexpected interference of a Chinese triad boss attempting to obtain the plates from Cha is sure to complicate their investigation, if only they can catch up with their elusive target first.

Rumors about the origins of the mysterious superdollar abound and although the counterfeit currency hasn’t been definitively linked to North Korea, the premise for this lightweight action movie seems sufficiently plausible if occasional plot holes and lapses in logic can be ignored. Yoon Hyeon-ho’s script proves too repetitive and unfocused to build much tension, however, frequently digressing into the particulars of the leading characters’ personal issues. The attempt at maintaining a comedic subplot between Gang and Lim as the mismatched detectives often feels strained, particularly with the addition of Gang’s bickering family members to the mix.

Hyun plays the stern-faced military straight man to Yoo’s thin-skinned street cop, and although the two have some isolated moments when they’re really clicking, on the whole the performances are more serviceable than remarkable. Kim keeps the action sequences tightly focused, particularly in the tense opening segment, but tends to let dramatic scenes go on for too long after they’ve conveyed their point. Essentially tacking on a drawn-out fourth act after the 90-minute point, the film feels needlessly overblown by the time it hits the two-hour mark.

Production company: JK Film
Distributor: CJ Entertainment
Cast: Hyun Bin, Yoo Hai-jin, Kim Joo-hyuck, Gong Jeong-hwan, Lee Hea-yong, Jang Young-nam, Lim Yoon-a
Director: Kim Sung-hoon
Screenwriter: Yoon Hyeon-ho
Producer: JK Youn
Executive producer: Jeong Tae-sung
Director of photography: Lee Sung-je
Production designer: Lee Tae-hoon
Costume designer: Kim Eun-suk
Editor: Lee Jin
Music: Hwang Sang-jun

125 minutes