Saturday, February 11, 2012

More fun from South Korea: THE SECRET REUNION screens free at Tribeca Cinemas

Asian film fans -- hell: movie fans in general -- mark your calendar for this coming Wednesday, February 15, as one of the most fun films from South Korea in a long time, THE SECRET REUNION, screens free at the Tribeca Cinema, as part of the fortnightly Korean Movie Night series. This knock-out action/buddy movie concludes the trio of films directed by Jang Hun (this one's even co-written by him), whose work the Korean Cultural Center of New York has been featuring of late, and it certainly demonstrates that Hun (shown below) is adept at both the demands of the mainstream and sheer film-making prowess.

Much more conventional than last month's Rough Cut (click and scroll down), this one, too, is a kind of buddy movie in which the buds ought to be mortal enemies, except that decency and humanity manage to trump politics. That very funny, real and slightly chubby actor Song Kang-Ho (below, left, who seems to be in every third major movie from Korea that we see) plays a South Korean secret agent whose vanity and ego ("Don't call for back up!") screws up an operation set to net a notorious North Korean assassin. During this episode, which proves about as exciting, swift and bloody as any assassination you'll have seen, the assassin's young protege shows himself having difficulty with the ruthless tactics of his boss.

As played by the adorable and very sexy pop star Gang Dong-Won (above, right, and below), this character would seem to show us that North Koreans are a hell of a lot more disciplined and intelligent than the Southern variety, even if all that good stuff is put to bad use. The movie eventually turns into the odd-buddies film that puts our two guys -- a definite father/son thing is going on here -- in close quarters and watches them wiggle, as all sorts of themes, from immigration to gang warfare and Capitalism vs. Communism come into focus.

"Capitalism is about finding happiness by taking another's wealth. That's not a crime. OK?" explains/pleads the older man to the younger, in one of the movie's witty/funny exchanges. While you certainly will know where this film is headed, I think you'll find yourself surprised at how much fun getting there can be. How can we catch spies, the movie seem to ask, while showing mercy and compassion?

The finale takes us back to that opening section, where we're up to our necks in very bloody action once again. ("I can almost feel the bloodbath," notes our nasty, head assassin.) The actual ending is so wonderful -- and so completely fake -- that it could perfectly stand for as some kind of apotheosis of what Hollywood and its many imitators have been feeding us for years. If you're a sucker, as I am, for movies that show us life as it might be in a perfect world, you're going to love The Secret Reunion.

The movie plays this Wednesday, February 15, at 7pm at the Tribeca Cinema. Arrive early, as it's free, and seating is on a first-come/first-served basis.

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