Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Spy: Undercover Operation—Espionage and Marital Strife
they get to kill people, but spies are still civil servants. The hours are long and there is frequent
travel, but they are still paid according to their government grade. Agent Kim
Chul-soo’s wife does not realize he is out saving the country. She only knows he is not around very much, with
little to show for it. However, she will
find herself in the middle of his latest assignment when an enemy operative
targets her in Lee Seung-jun’s The Spy:
Undercover Operation (trailer
opens today in Queens, New York.
latest round of six-party talks is fast approaching. Once again, re-unification seems to be just
around the corner, until a high-ranking North Korean official’s plane is
blasted out of the sky by a stinger missile.
His daughter, Baek Sul-hee, decides to defect to the South to expose the
international conspiracy responsible.
She also happens to be a nuclear scientist, making her a very valuable
commodity. Kim and his sidekick-like
department head Jin will manage the operation, but the normally reliable
operative will be uncharacteristically distracted by his fraying marriage.
the North Koreans are the least of their worries. The Chinese, American, and Japanese intelligence
services are all circling around Baek. However,
a mysterious freelancer named Ryan represents the gravest threat. Sort of the male model version of Javier
Bardem’s Raul Silva in Skyfall, Ryan
has been putting the moves on Kim’s unsuspecting wife AhnYeong-hui for
nefarious purposes. This rather annoys Kim, for multiple reasons.
The Spy incorporates elements of Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Athena: Goddess of War, adding a liberal
dose of broad, henpecked humor. Helmed by
last minute stand-in Lee Seung-jun (the assistant director on Quick), it boasts several nicely
executed action scenes, but the jealous husband gags are strictly sitcom stuff.
the Korean film industry is serious about expanding their share of the American
market, The Spy is a rather perverse
choice to export, given its anti-American inclinations. It is hard to imagine a film whose hero deliberately
shoots CIA agents dead is likely to breakout at the American box office,
especially since fans of the action and rom-com genres tend to be more heartland,
whereas the audience for provocative art-house films like Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta will not
be interested, regardless. Perhaps
American actor Daniel Henney (best known for the previous Wolverine film) was considered crossover friendly, but he is hardly
a household name.
makes a decent villain as Ryan, but prestige screen-thesps Sul Kyung-gu and
Moon So-ri look distinctly uncomfortable with the mugging and pratfalls required
of Kim and Ahn, respectively. Somehow though, Han Ye-ri’s Baek is a figure of
intelligence, seriousness, and resourcefulness. Conversely, Ko Chang-seok
(another Quick alumnus) is right at
home with Jin’s rubber-faced reaction shots.
is some impressive stunt work in The Spy,
but it is hamstrung by its dubious humor and geopolitical analysis. Not likely
to have a long run, diehard Henney fans (if they’re out there) should see it
this weekend, but go in with low expectations when The Spy: Operation Undercover opens today (9/27) at the AMC Bay
Terrace in Flushing.
Labels: Korean Cinema