Sunday, September 4, 2011

Movie Review - Secret Reunion

Secret Reunion Poster

* Title: Secret Reunion, also known as "Blood Brothers"
* Revised Romanization: Eui hyeong je

* Hangul: 의형제

* Director: Jang Hoon

* Runtime: 116 min
* Language: Korean
* Country: South Korea
* Leads: Song Kang Ho, Kang Dong Won




When North Korean secret agent Ji-won (Kang Dong-won) crosses the 38th Parallel on a mission, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) led by Han-gyu (Song Kang-ho) intervenes, and a shooting rampage ensues in the heart of Seoul. For the incident, Han-gyu is fired and Ji-won is deserted by his agency. Six years later, the two meet by chance and start a business partnership in order to steal information from the other. - Hancinema

The movie starts, Kang Dong Won speaks and the rest is awesome, due to the fact that his voice has thrown me into a fangirl coma. Ok, I'm kidding. But the movie does start as you would expect a movie like this to. We have rain, a small bleak apartment and a sad-face (or Sad Eyes, ay yay yay) North Korean agent who is bidding his pregnant wife and unborn kid goodnight, before getting prepped for his next mission after which "he will definitely come home". Ok, I don't think it's fair to say this movie is too "Hollywood" just because it has a big production value and some ass kicking and anyone who does say it is an idiot, but it does sport some popcorn movie clichés. Like this "I'll be home right after this mission" thing which you just know is bound to end in things going tits-up.

Tempting Fate
Someone should tell him those types of statements are begging for things to go badly

Meanwhile, the South Korean dude is also preparing for the big "catch them other guys" operation and seeing just how organized and professional he is, you're pretty sure this will be a general fiasco for both sides involved. Things do go badly, both guys end up in the doghouse and then we skip forward to six years later.

The usual Korean (and Greek) aftermath to things getting utterly messed up

Like I said, this shouldn't be compared to Hollywood for the wrong reasons. Hollywood isn't some cesspool of failure, it's just that it makes so damn much and so damn superficially that all the diamonds are drowned in shit. Secret Reunion does have some more "people-pleasing" elements in it, but it does not assume the viewer doesn't have a brain. It's more of a common understanding with the viewer that you're about to watch a nice big budget movie and enjoy some action and bromance. The "brother from another mother" type, not the type fangirls are usually imagining. STOP IMAGINING IT! And that you shall enjoy, unless you don't really enjoy that in general, in which case, why are you here and reading this?  

The Story and Characters

This has a pretty basic set up for a cat-and-mouse game that turns into camaraderie. Or more like a cat chases mouse while the mouse is also chasing it game, but now I just killed that metaphor. These two meet after the fiasco and they are both trying to infiltrate the other's defenses... I told you it was NOT that kind of a bromance! All jokes aside, the two characters each have their own issues and the other's presence forces them to open up to the person they should be fooling more than anyone, meaning the other guy. Shining examples of a proper agent, both of them. Which is even more evident by the fact that they both give a rat's ass and a half for their homelands.

Nothing says "trust" (or "idiot") like hiding all your sharp objects to defend yourself from a guy who could kill you with his bare hands

Han Kyu sees spies as big piles of money and a promotion to support his total bitch of a wife who doesn't understand that being married to a friggin' government agent might mean he'll have to miss a few Sunday roasts. She then leaves him, bringing their kid along and he realizes just how important damn money really is. So, I was happy to see that being South Korean didn't make him the "good guy", since he starts off as an absolute dick before Ji Won's tree-hugging nature rubs off on him.

Not Robin Hood
Making money out of people's misery is just another day at work

Ji Won on the other hand is not after money to start with and doesn't seem to give two damns about his own country for any reason other than the fact that his family is there. He works for being allowed to go back to them and that's all he wants. He does get a bit dual in nature, since it feels weird for a person to be a trained killer and then complain about spouse abuse, but not forcing yourself to be what you're branded as is kind of the whole point of the movie. That and the power of friendship, as sickeningly sweet as that sounds.

A trained pain-inducing machine and a gentleman

The Cast

Well, there's Song Kang Ho and some kid. Or Kang Dong Won and some ajusshi (uncle, mister). Or then Song Kang Ho and Kang Dong Won. The first if you are too pretentious to even check out anyone that unfortunately has fangirls around him, the second if you are a fangirl and anyone above age 30 and not pretty enough might as well have breasts and the third one if you can appreciate good acting without being a nitpicking freak.

These guys are good. They're not equally good, as Song Kang Ho is about as A-list and awesome as you get while Kang Dong Won is still taking babysteps into consistency and has so far been more of a character actor, playing all kinds of freaks. But they are both good and they are also good together.

Song Kang Ho has played more or less an idiot in all the works I've seen him in, but he plays idiots you just can't dislike. He's fun to watch. He's natural, he's likable and when you do catch a glimpse of seriousness, you want to stand at attention and show respect. Which makes me very intrigued to see some darker roles of his. He makes Han Kyu very rustic and kind of a jerk at times, but a nice guy you just can't get mad at. He also balances the seriousness and comedic aspects of the character without looking like a split personality. Song Kang Ho simply rocks. Forgive me if that isn't a very professional term, but I don't pretend to know all, like critics.

"Rustic" might have been too lenient a term for this charmer...

Kang Dong Won isn't quite as psycho as in some other roles, but he was a good choice for this. He is "the younger guy" without being overly pretty or reeking of fanservice, since, as is the case with most of his works, he looks as unattractive as possible in his capacity as an actor. Because he's not adjusting his performance and looks in his works to promote his pretty-boy image, like some others do, but to actually fit the character he is playing. Ji Won is not the happiest kid around and he's very suspicious of everything and everyone. Kind of comes with the job. Dong Won does well in making him look like a very emotionally tired guy who is just trying to crawl to the finish line and go back to his family with as much dignity as possible.

Happy Happy
What a bundle of sunshine and joy

Get these two and their awesome chemistry together and it's a pleasure to watch. We also have Jeon Gook Hwan, who deserves a mention as he is absolutely creepy as a villain in this. Won't give more details, but his character is seriously messed up and Jeon nails that style.

You wouldn't even want to be in the same town as this person

 What You See

Couple of car chases, lots of shooting, blood, some awesome brawls, good stuff. The movie isn't trying to be artsy or unique in many ways, but everything looks top shelf. Seeing as how the director's two other movies are also action, he knows what he does well and sticks to it. And it looks good. Which brings me to the issue of the brawls. I love Korean fights because they feel a lot more natural than Hollywood. In Hollywood, everything looks too choreographed and contrived. Punches always land where they should, villains stand idly by as if someone will hand them a ticket if they attack the hero more than one at a time. Koreans do that too, in some movies, but some are just a riot to watch for their realistic fights. Like Secret Reunion.

"Good" guys aren't superhuman; they are just more resilient than the ones they fight

10-15 guys all going for the one guy at the same time, punches and hits and kicks and bites from every direction, hair pulling, ball grabbing. Proper street fighting style. Now, obviously, this takes a lot more effort to co-ordinate than the more stylized ass kicking, because you have many guys doing moves at the same time and one wrong move can end in many injuries. Which I am sure happens a lot in Korean productions. Still, it looks awesome and the actors seemed to enjoy it too, in this particular work. It's also worth noting that some more stylized ass kicking isn't completely absent either, since Ji Won is a secret agent and therefore trained on special moves which take down opponents more easily.

How to disarm (and de-bone) a thug

What You Hear

Good, solid orchestral score. Heavy pieces for the heavy scenes and a nice and appropriate lighter and kind of whimsical piece for the brawls. There was a particular scene at the end where they use a very soft strings and piano piece that just sent chills down my spine. Won't spoil things, but that piece with that very emotional climactic scene are the kind of moments one loves movies for. The pieces for the chase and heavier scenes do what they need to do. Make you feel the suspense and the weight in your chest.    

Some Things To Wrap Up

A great action movie that keeps you interested and invested at all times. It does have some "box office hit" clichés and all, but you never feel they are trying to slip them by you. This movie has fun scenes, the angst is well justified and not just there to squeeze your heart to bits or make you laugh and the chemistry between the leads is awesome. The overall result is a very entertaining action movie, which also does graze the surface of issues like respecting other people, trusting others and finding someone to lean on, because we all need that in our lives. Its message doesn't ruin its action and its action doesn't drown the message. And that's where Hollywood usually screws up.

Also, in Hollywood, this chicken wouldn't get turned into a stew in the very next scene

Who Will Like It

Anyone who likes good action. There's shooting, fighting, killing, car chases, blood etc. The buddy element is quite heartwarming, funny and cute to watch so it's excellent for sensitive hearts who aren't complete drama queens that squeal at the sight of ass kicking and blood. Men will love this, unless they have some repressed complex with two male strangers loving each other as friends. Obviously, fans of the cast will like it.

This agent can handle pressure, but that look from Ji Won would have given him a stroke


Great movie, but I would have liked to see more of the time these two spend together while trying to keep an eye on each other. The message does get through and all, but I still would have loved to see more of the characters' relationship. Mainly because the chemistry is good and the pair are very interesting. But still, it doesn't really ruin anything for me.

On the Fanboy Scale: Fights, gunfights, fist fights, knife fights, blood, sweat, death, car chases. I think most hotblooded males would like this, if they are into action. Not a real pretty woman in sight though, so unless you're gay and fancy one of the guys, you won't have something to drool over.

On the Fangirl Scale: It's not exactly a wuvwy rom-com. Kang Dong Won is handsome, but he doesn't spend the movie looking fabulous, since he's not supposed to be a model in it and all. So, unless you can handle him being badly dressed, bleeding and being sweaty a lot, since this was filmed in the summer and you can even see the sweat on him when you watch the movie in HD, making his hair wet and dripping...and...


Sorry, I lost my train of thought... Oh right. If you fancy Dong Won or Kang Ho as men in general, you will like this. If you need to see them acting like hosts, all fancied up with perfect make up, clothes and hair for you to consider them men, then bite me.  Information and trailer taken from Hancinema.
Creative Commons License
Copyright © Orion's Ramblings
Images used on this blog are taken from various sources and often modified by Orion. The credit belongs to their respectful owners. If you do not want your image to be used here, contact me with a link to it and it will be removed.
KangDW Light Theme designed by Orion. Based on the template "Touch of Purple" by Jakothan. Dreamon Shape Brushes used.