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A grounded action-thriller with three addicting main characters
"Cold Eyes" is a South Korean action-thriller inspired by the Hongkong movie "Eye In The Sky" which came out six years prior to this film.
The Korean remake has a rather odd beginning from my point of view. The film takes too much time to introduce many characters but only three are truly addicting or important to the story where a special police department is hunting down high profile criminals. The first thirty minutes where everybody gets to know each other in the department and where the team follows a stupid criminal nicknamed "Thirsty Hippo" are rather lengthy. Some rather faceless unit members on one side and exchangeable criminals on the other are the main reasons for a mellow start of this movie. Once the three main characters take the lead and once some unimportant side-stories are eliminated, the movie gets a lot more dynamical around forty minutes into the film.
The film is then carried by three characters. First off, there is the nervous rookie which is very well incarnated by actress Han Hyo-Ju. This character is very smart and has some impressive visual skills. On the other side, the young cop does a few fatal mistakes on her first mission. Han Hyo-Ju's acting feels natural and shows us a young woman torn between cold professionalism and emotional struggles who is growing throughout this story. This character is easily the most addicting one and carries the entire movie.
Chief Hwang is very well played Sol Kyung-Gu. At first sight, his character seems to be quite professional but also very arrogant, cold and severe at moments. Towards the end of the movie, his personal values come into play and show us a softer core where the aged expert is ready to sacrifice everything to save his men. He also becomes somehow a father figure for the rookie cop. This dynamical character and his actions add some diversity and a few philosophical thoughts to this film.
Last but not least, there is the cold-hearted, well organized and extremely smart veteran villain incarnated by Jung Woo-Sung. This character also has some quite different sides. He seems pitiless at first sight but he also cares about his men and refuses to blindly follow his superiors. It's a man that follows his convictions, his experience and his instinct. That's why he has some identical character qualities with the rookie cop on one side and her chief on the other. This explains why he is a quite respectable villain and not just a one- dimensional brutal bully.
The clash of these three characters is what makes the movie really outstanding. The film gets more and more tension-filled towards the end. The last twenty minutes or so are dedicated to an amazing chase through the city of Seoul where each of the three characters has to sacrifice something. These scenes will bring you on the edge of your seat.
The modern film techniques are effectively used without adding too many special effects to it. The film always remains as grounded and realistic as possible. The settings in this movie are well chosen but not exceptional either. While the story is nothing innovating, it's especially the great acting of the three main characters and the constantly growing pace leading to a dramatic turn of events that convince most. This is a welcome change to the effect-ridden Hollywood productions like "Mission Impossible" or "The Bourne" series.
If you watch this grounded and well-acted action-thriller, just be sure to be patient enough to make it through the first thirty or forty minutes that are not completely useless but rather ordinary in comparison to what follows afterwards. Genre fans and those who care for South Korean cinema should appreciate this film even though it can't mess with some of the contemporary cinematic milestones coming from this extraordinary country.
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