Sikeurit (Secret) (Jae-gu Yoon, 2009)
Good-cop-gone-bad thrillers are a dime a dozen in just about every film culture in the world. Sure, there are any number of variables a scriptwriter can set to try and make the thing original; why the cop goes corrupt (or if s/he even does; is it a perception thing and said cop is actually innocent?), what crime it is being covered up and the relationship of the criminal to the cop, whether the partner is in on it, etc. But they’re still good-cop-gone-bad thrillers. If you’re going to enter such an oversaturated market, you’d better have something to keep your head above water—a great sense of filmmaking style, a cracking mystery, the ability to pace a film better than 99% of your contemporaries, a great twist in the tale, you name it. Sikeurit, Jae-gu Yoon’s directorial debut and second screenplay (he also wrote the crime film Seven Days, which marked the return to the Korean screen of Lost star Yoon-jin Kim, and which is currently undergoing the American remake treatment), manages to distinguish itself from the pack in a number of ways, not least the acting chops of its principal cast.
Plot: Seung-yol Kim (Murder, Take One‘s Seung-won Cha) has always been a standup cop, though his private life can’t stand up to the same scrutiny—he’s been having an affair with a fellow detective’s wife for years, and now she’s pressuring him to cut ties with his own wife, Ji-yeon (Face‘s Yun-ah Song). Seung-yeol and Ji-yeon’s relationship has been on the outs for over a year, ever since the death of their child in a car accident where Seung-yeol was driving; Ji-yeon has repeatedly pressed him for details of the accident, which he refuses to provide. (We gradually uncover details of it in flashback throughtout the movie.) Called to a murder scene one night, Seung-yeol uncovers evidence that Ji-yeon was at the scene of the crime, and palms it. Soon after, a blackmailer contacts him, threatening to expose Ji-yeon’s presence at the murder scene, while Seung-yeol is convinced that the actual murderer is a gang lord known as The Jackal (Doenjang‘s Seung-ryong Ryu). Meanwhile, everyone else is convinced there was someone as yet undisclosed at the crime scene, and that person is the prime suspect…
There’s a lot of acting talent thrown at this movie, and not a bit of it is wasted. Everyone brings their A games, from minor comic-relief characters to the main trio. As well, Yoon’s script may take the crude way out as far as keeping its secrets (the whole series-of-flashbacks thing? Really?), but crude is sometimes effective, and often crudely-revealed secrets are a red herring hiding something far more subtle. That’s the case here, though I can’t even tell you what part of the plot that real secret affects; it’s that much of a spoiler. Suffice to say Yoon does know what he’s doing.
Slick, stylish, and well-plotted, Sikeurit is a fun thriller when you’re looking for a fresh alternative to American police thrillers. Definitely worth checking out. *** ½
Trailer is not subtitled.