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Cold Eyes - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2013

Thriller, Crime, Action

Jo Eui-seok
Kim Byeong-seo

Seol Kyeong-gu
Han Hyo-joo
Jeong Woo-seong
Jin Kyeong
Kim Byeong-ok
Lee Dong-hwi
Simon Yam

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Cold Eyes

Story: Yoon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) has exceptional observational skills and is hired by Hwang (Seol Kyeong-gu), the leader of a police surveillance team, after she has successfully passed a test in which she had to tail Hwang himself. As a rookie she still has a lot to learn about the rules in practice, though. The surveillance unit is only allowed to observe and never is to intervene actively, which is often tough to stick to for rookies. Soon Yoon-joo is allowed to work on her first big case, a bank robbery which has been perfectly planned. At first it seems impossible to identify the culprits by looking at the CCTV cameras. But eventually it turns out that the bank robbers made a small mistake after all and so the police unit around Hwang is looking for a certain man that could lead them to the rest of the group. However, the police isn't aware that there is another individual behind the bank robbers. James (Jeong Woo-seong) is the head of the group and he is a smart and extremely ruthless man. When Hwang gets closer and closer to him a deadly cat-and-mouse game unfolds.

Review: At first you aren't willing to give "Cold Eyes" any points for originality. After all it is a remake of the Hong Kong movie "Eye in the Sky". But it doesn't take long for the great technical execution and the star-studded cast to win you over. South Korea seems to have finally reached the top when it comes to thrillers. "Cold Eyes" has an international flair, delivers fantastic thrills thanks to excellent camera work and editing and does so without unnecessary over-the-top special effects. There isn't even any melodrama implemented! And this although it seemed that no Korean film could do without it! The result is a well-achieved surprise. Since the Hong Kong original was a nice thriller I couldn't help but to watch the remake with mixed feelings, but in the end it managed to completely convince me.

Cold Eyes - Film Screenshot 11

It is extremely difficult to make a thriller suspenseful if there is actually nothing happening except someone being shadowed and traced. Soon the viewer's thoughts start to wander off or an undelibarete yawn escapes your mouth. But not here. The story of the original wasn't that bad to begin with, although the remake also lacks the element of criticism on a fully monitored society, but its true strength lies in the fantastic directing. Jo Eui-seok could already prove with his "World of Silence" that he has potential, but partnering up with Kim Byeong-seo, who has worked on numerous Korean blockbusters like "The Host", "Secret Sunshine" or "I Saw the Devil" as a cinematographer and lighting technician, really highlights the talent on the directing chair.

Cold Eyes - Film Screenshot 12

The car chasing scenes on the wide streets of Seoul have something special about them and offer some vibrant action. The few car crash scenes aren't executed in Hollywood fashion, but impress with their evident realism. A little bit less can suddenly look like a lot more. Moreover, there are is some innovative camera work adding to the positive overall picture. Particularly during one of the few fights the energetic camera work stands out as the camera moves in all three dimensions. There is some really neat work to be found here. The editing is outstanding, too, which is especially pleasant since normally there are merely fast cuts used to create some action and suspense, along with a prominent soundtrack. Strangely enough the soundtrack is actually more of a downer since it is too unoriginal. Luckily, this doesn't negatively affect the suspense level at all.

There is some positive to note when it comes to the cast, too. Seol Kyeong-gu ("The Tower", "Oasis") does a very fine job and you get a three-dimensional picture of his character as is the case with that of Han Hyo-joo ("Masquerade", "Ad Lib Night"), although the screenplay in fact leaves only little room for character elaboration. However, the individuals aren't of the sort you wouldn't care about and this even applies to the supporting characters. To see Jeong Woo-seong ("The Good, the Bad, the Weird", "The Restless") as a villain for the first time in his career isn't bad and he really manages to pull of the cold stare, but in the end he remains just too shallow.

Cold Eyes - Film Screenshot 13

Unfortunately, the showdown is a bit disappointing and can't keep up with the rest of the movie in respect to the level of suspense. Apart from that there actually isn't anything to nag about. A cameo appearance by Simon Yam stands as a nice nod to the original and a future co-production between South Korea and Hong Kong for a sequel in fact would be a great thing, especially since "Cold Eyes" already feels like a mix of a Hong Kong thriller and a mordern Korean thriller. At least it would be better than a Hollywood remake of the remake, which certainly will be in the making soon enough. "Cold Eyes" stays close to the original, but manages to differ where it benefits from it. Therefore, the movie looks bigger and more international than "Eye in the Sky" without seeming too pompous. An absolutely convincing blockbuster.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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