Movie review: Cold Eyes

Movie review: Cold Eyes


120 minutes/***½

The story: Ha Yoon Ju (Han Hyo Joo) has a phenomenal memory and that comes in useful in her job. The rookie member of a police surveillance unit works under the gruff but brilliant chief detective Hwang (Seol Kyung Gu) and alongside fellow cop Squirrel (Lee Jun Ho). Their target is the elusive and ruthlessly efficient ringleader James (Jung Woo Sung). A remake of the thriller Eye In The Sky (2007), which won Best New Director and Best New Artist at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Cold Eyes is a remake and not just a warm-over of Eye In The Sky.

Writer-director Cho Ui Seok and co-director Kim Byung Seo leave their stamp on the award- winning Hong Kong film's basic premise of a surveillance team on the trail of a master criminal.

The shift in location from Hong Kong to the bustling metropolis of Seoul already gives the film a different tone and character.

The directors here have a good grip on pacing and the opening sequence has Ha apparently tailing Hwang while James crosses paths with them. Except at this point, the audience is not quite sure who is whom and the ambiguity adds to the tension. Credit where credit is due and it should be noted that this hews quite closely to the original directed by Yau Nai Hoi.

As if tipping the hat to Eye In The Sky, Simon Yam, one of the Hong Kong film's stars, pops up in a cameo at the end.

Notably, the Korean cast does not merely recreate the key roles of, for example, the experienced cop played by Yam and the villain played by Tony Leung Ka Fai. Yam had packed on the pounds for his turn while Seol (Public Enemy, 2002) skips the physical transformation and still manages to make the role distinctly his.

Jung Woo Sung brings a certain cool factor to his turn as the meticulous and vicious James and Han gets you to root for her as the tenacious rookie facing her first big case. She has to learn the code of conduct with regard to surveillance and, naturally, she is put in situations which test her ability to strictly follow orders and keep to the mission's goal.

The interplay between the characters is also deftly sketched out from the teacher-student dynamic between Hwang and Ha to a nail-biting encounter between James and Ha late in the film.

Cold Eyes has been a deserved hit in South Korea with more than 5.5 million admissions. And that means that one can keep an eye out for a follow-up.

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