|"Mmmm. I want whatever that gentleman has in his mouth in my mouth."|
|All Cops in Korea are Ultra-Babe-O-Licious!|
Dir. Jo Ui-seok, Kim Byung-seo
Starring: Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung, Han Hyo-joo, Jin Kyung, Lee Junho, Kim Byung-ok
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Whenever I see a slam-bang, supremely stylish and rock-solid Asian action thriller like Cold Eyes, I always shake my head and wonder why so many ludicrously-budgeted American studio pictures of a similar ilk are poorly directed and stupid? Who are the morons? The filmmakers or the audiences? I suspect both are equally deficient. The American directors have no real filmmaking talent and American audiences are bereft of brain. Since Americans are too stupid to watch anything in a language other than their own, the prospect of an American remake seems even more idiotic since they'd manage to take a terse, simple and intelligent script and just make it lugubrious, unnecessarily complicated (not complex, either - that word isn't in the American vocabulary) and just flat-out dumb. Astoundingly, Cold Eyes IS a remake of Johnnie To's solid meat-and-potatoes (or, if you will, BBQ pork and white rice) 2007 Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky. Given that To is no slouch, it's especially cool that co-directors Jo Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo deliver a picture that blows his off the map (and most every American cop thriller from the past twenty-or-so years).
There are elements of Cold Eyes that are tried and true - a young cop (and, happily, a major BABE), has a lot to learn, but is still hand-picked by a tough-as-nails senior detective who knows that the "heart" is there in spades. After all, having the right stuff - in his books - trumps by-rote technical proficiency in the field. When she joins the team of high-tech surveillance detectives, a vicious and heretofore unidentified group of bank robbers led by a high-tech criminal mastermind, have successfully committed one similarly-styled job too many and the team is pumped to take the filth down.
Set against the energy-charged labyrinth that is Séoul, Cold Eyes is a tense, edge-of-the-seat cat and mouse action thriller that's replete with astonishing chases on foot and in moving vehicles, daring stunts, superb hand-to-hand fight scenes, shockingly blood thirsty violence and all the requisite and compelling cop/criminal dualities that any action aficionado will enjoy. The "cold eyes" of the title is an especially rich visual and emotional motif and refers to the ability to see everything in such detached detail on surveillance missions (and in the case of the villain. on a major heist), that one's mind becomes a sort of picture-perfect databank to supplement the gadgetry with the human element.
The surveillance sequences themselves have the kind of William Friedkin French Connection-styled doggedness that lets you see and feel the pulse of the streets and the monotony (without being a dull watch) of the days, weeks and even months of eyeballing as the most effective form of detective work. Much of the film is charged with the kind of short shots, quick cutting and hand-held work that just seems sloppy and noisy in virtually all contemporary American films and here demonstrates the genuine artistry of its filmmakers since there is never an unnecessary shot, virtuoso compositions and cuts driven by dramatic thrust as opposed to pure visceral propulsion.
Cold Eyes makes for a glorious big-screen experience and I'd urge viewers to do what they can to enjoy the movie that way. If not, try to watch it at home on high-def Blu-Ray (fuck streaming, digital downloads and DVD).
Cold Eyes recently screened at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival following a premiere at TIFF 2013.