I am aware that, as a film buff – especially a Hong Kong one – I’m supposed to hate on Cold Eyes, the South Korean remake of the 2007 Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky. That this Korean megahit, about a cat-and-mouse game between a police surveillance crew and a clever criminal mastermind, follows the original film’s plot to a tee should have cemented a negative review. After all, the lack of creativity is all that’s wrong with the mainstream film industry today, right?
But I can’t hate on Cold Eyes. I love it, as a matter of fact. There’s more than one way to tell a story, and the swap from a gritty Kowloon backdrop to the high-tech, high-glam Seoul metropolis alone makes for an interesting, different experience.
Plus, co-directors Jo Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo had the benefit of operating on a much higher budget than Hong Kong’s Yau Nai-hoi (a protégé of Johnnie To, Asia’s master of crime films), and this is obvious from the film’s stunningly cold open, which introduces all the major characters from both sides of the law in two separate yet intertwined operations. We meet the heroes during an intriguing ‘shadowing’ training session, while the film’s villain leads a bank robbery in a scene that takes heavy visual cues from Michael Mann’s Heat. Again, what happens here doesn’t stray far from the original film’s intro, but the higher production values give the first act of Cold Eyes a much more grandiose feel.
Throw in a strong female protagonist who successfully juggles instinct and reason, and a highly intriguing story that ramps up the tension without resorting to gratuitous violence and action, and you’ve got a tremendous genre film that should satisfy fans – if you can overlook the whole ‘hating on remakes and reboots’ thing. Ben Sin
Dir Jo Ui-seok, Kim Byung-seo Category IIB, 118 mins, opens on Thu Oct 3