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Officer of the Year - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2011

Thriller, Comedy

Lim Chan-ik

Park Joong-hoon
Lee Seon-gyoon
Lee Sung-min
Kim Jeong-tae
Choi Deok-moon
Ko Joo-yeon

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Officer of the Year

aka The Apprehenders

Story: The police of Seodaemun district are working on a case for quite a while already, but Hwang Jae-seong (Park Joong-hoon) from the Mapo district is snatching their case away and wins the laurels. Thus he also earns a big score which will win him the title of "Officer of the Year" and make his station cut a fine figure as well. Jeong Ee-chan (Lee Seon-gyoon), who has been transfered to Seodaemun as the new leader of an investigation unit, realizes this as well. Moreover, he soon wants to marry and needs money for his wedding. When he hears that there is quite some prize money involved for winning the title "Officer of the Year" he does everything in his power to be one step ahead of Hwang with their next case. This case revolves around a rapist who records his victims and threatens to release the recordings if they talk. Accordingly, clues are scarce in this case, so there is the order from up the ladder that the Mapo and Seodaemun district are to work together in this case in order to quicken getting some results in the ongoing investigation. However, Hwang and Jeong constantly interfere with their independent investigations...

Review: There are different genre mixes coming out of Korea all the time. Sometimes they work, but often they aren't really that convincing. Yet, "Officer of the Year" manages to cut a fine figure, even though it never succeeds in being more than just a little bit above average. That certainly is strange since the movie shows only little weakness as a thriller as well as a comedy. Ultimately, the characters aren't enthralling enough to capture the audience since there are also some inconsistencies concerning their elaboration. Also, a little bit too late it becomes apparent that the flick wants to be a buddy movie, too, and additionally the chemistry between the two protagonists never feels the way it should. Despite all that the picture is still an entertaining affair.

Officer of the Year - Film Screenshot 11

Let's get right to the biggest flaw: Hwang. A cop who makes use of any means necessary to secure his success as an officer. But suddenly he starts to have a conscience and he is even more interested in solving the rapist case than his rival, although he knows that there isn't any reward waiting for him. It's not clear where this sudden change is coming from. Even without that it would have been nice to get to know more about him as his private life is only hinted at by a short appearance of his family. Park Joong-hoon ("My Dear Desperado", "Nowhere to Hide") is a good actor and even here he manages to portray a character with some likeable traits, although he easily could have made the impression of being the villain. Still, the police officer doesn't seem coherent as a character.

Officer of the Year - Film Screenshot 12

There are also a few problems when it comes to Jeong. At first he seems to be absolutely incompetent and not the right choice for his post at all. But then it turns out that not only Hwang can deliver some pretty decent investigative work, but he too. Because of this the movie also works as a thriller, but you still feel as if the filmmakers are playing with you. Probably the humor couldn't be lost sight of and thus this approach has been chosen. Yet, that makes Jeong not that convincing as an individual and Lee Seon-gyoon ("A Hard Day", "Helpless") has played better roles, too. Furthermore, "Officer of the Year" needs some time for the right chemistry to unfold between the protagonists, but when they are finally there, the credits are already rolling over the screen.

In respect to the pacing there actually isn't any reason to complain. Although the running time is almost two hours there is never a dull moment. Only towards the end the movie loses momentum, which is unfortunate. Besides the actual chasing scenes it's more than anything else the rivalry between the two police stations that make up the right pacing. In fact there is also passed some slight criticism on Korean society in which nothing is more important for the police than to earn a good score and become best in class. When the two rivals are supposed to work hand in hand in order to arrest a rapist things naturally end in chaos. Which leads to some funny moments, and even when the thriller puts its more serious subject into focus there are still enough laughs for everyone.

Officer of the Year - Film Screenshot 13

It's difficult to place a subject like raping in a movie and at the same time give the events unfolding on screen an all in all lighthearted tone. But in "Officer of the Year" director Lim Chan-ik actually manages to pull that feat off with his debut work. And yet the chase for the culprit still retains its thriller flair. Even moments of drama don't feel as if being forced on you. Although not every gag is working the film can in fact convince as a comedy thriller mix. Unfortunately, the ending proves that the movie simply wants to be a fun ride and won't be sticking with you for long. That's a shame since more elaborate protagonists would have made "Officer of the Year" a really interesting film. So it doesn't come as a surprise that most critics are more well-disposed towarsd Lim's work than I am.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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