1910, the Korean Empire was a far cry from Burke and Hare’s 1820’s Edinburgh. Nonetheless, when a medical student finds a
corpse in the woods, he cannot resist the rare opportunity to dissect a human
cadaver. When his specimen turns out to
be the well-heeled victim of a serial killer, Jang Kwang-soo turns to a
professional to guide him out of the mess.
At least that is the idea in Park Dae-min’s Private Eye (trailer
available on DVD from Pathfinder Home Entertainment.
is no longer Hong Jin-ho’s business. The
ex-cop turned gumshoe now specializes in divorce cases. He wants nothing to do with Jang’s case, but
the prospective reward for information on the magistrate’s missing (and in fact
dead) son along with his former colleagues’ incompetent handling of the case hook
him in, despite his better judgment.
the body of a sleazy commissioner also turns up in the same manner as Jang’s
cadaver, detective and client quickly realize they are onto something much
larger. Not exactly CSI specialists, the
Seoul police are more concerned about cleaning up the crime scenes, lest they
offend the victims’ powerful relatives. This
gives Hong an advantage, thanks to his secret ally, Park Soon-deok, a noble
born lady scientist, who frustrated by the era’s gender norms finds an outlet
by serving as both Hong’s Quincy and Q.
Yes, they share some ambiguous history, but that is the least of Eye’s concerns.
the conspicuous corruption of the authorities, it is not hard to figure who, in
general, the bad guys are. Still, Park
and two credited co-writers keep many of the details of the lurid plot
relatively murky, while throwing viewers a few twists worthy of the Victorian
mysteries obviously inspiring the film.
However, sensitive viewers should be aware the conspiracy involves some
disturbing death-of-innocence crimes. (Just
once, it would be nice to see the villainous pervs targeting middle-aged genre
roguish, but far from invulnerable, Hwang Jung-min makes an engaging hardboiled
hero bordering on anti-hero. Though he
is occasionally a just a tad shticky, for the most part Ryu Deok-hwan’s Jang is
a restrained, wide-eyed sidekick. Unfortunately,
Um Ji-won is not allotted nearly enough screen time as Lady Park, because she
brings an intelligent and charismatic presence to easily the film’s most
intriguing character—partly an early feminist role model and partly a virtuous
Irene Adler figure.
While the Sherlock Holmes comparisons have been
a little overdone (Hong has a straw hat to Holmes’ deerstalker, get it?), Eye ends on a rather clever Scandal in Bohemia homage that could
easily function as a jumping off point for the sequel. Despite the often dark themes, the fast-paced
Private Eye is a rather entertaining
period noir. Recommended for fans of
Korean cinema and the hardboiled crime movies, it is now available on DVD from
Pathfinder Home Entertainment.
Labels: Detective movies, DVD, Korean Cinema