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Secret Reunion
Secret Reunion     Secret Reunion

(left) Song Kang-Ho, and (right) Kang Dong-Wan are the frenemies of Secret Reunion.
  AKA: Blood Brothers
  Korean: 의형제
Year: 2010  
Director: Jang Hun  

Jang Min-Seok


Song Kang-Ho, Kang Dong-Won, Park Hyuk-Kwon, Yoon Hee-Seok, Goh Chang-Seok

  The Skinny: Great performances from Song Kang-Ho and Kang Dong-Won highlight director Jang Hun's action thriller about Korean spies who may be friends or enemies. Maybe a tad too commercial, but the expert pacing, cool action sequences and terrific character dynamic make this a fine diversion.
by Kozo:
Like Korean actors? Then Secret Reunion is for you. From Rough Cut director and Kim Ki-Duk disciple Jang Hun, Secret Reunion presents a whopper of a male star pairing. In this corner: Song Kang-Ho, probably Korea's best actor and easily its most humble and self-effacing. Song is such a pro that he seemingly cares nothing for image, and will even cede the meatier or cooler parts to better looking or more popular co-stars. His opposite here: Kang Dong-Won (Duelist, Woochi), a tall prettyboy with solid acting chops who gets to play a haunted, cooler-than-cool North Korean spy cut off from his homeland and his handlers. His is the kickass role, while Song's is the rumpled, somewhat dopey one. Which of the two comes out looking better in the end?

Actually, both come out looking pretty damn good in Secret Reunion. Song and Kang get to be both allies and antagonists during the film, and their dynamic is strong enough to carry the film past its obvious commercial concessions. North Korean agent Song Ji-Won (Kang Dong-Won) becomes a man without a country when he makes a moral choice frowned upon by his North Korean superiors, and is soon on the lam from both North and South Korean authorities. Ji-Won crosses paths with South Korean agent Lee Han-Gyu (Song Kang-Ho), but they don't meet directly, with Han-Gyu getting only a small glimpse of Ji-Won's face. The botched operation leads to Han-Gyu's dismissal, but years later Han-Gyu crosses paths with Ji-Won again, now hiding in plain sight in rural South Korea.

What do they do then? Do they throw down like frustrated spies with a new chance to beat up an old foe? Nope, the film goes super situational with the two embarking on a false partnership where each is aware of the other's identity while thinking the other isn't aware of his. Now working and even living together, the two hide their agendas from the other while alternately helping and hindering the other from achieving his goals. In Han-Gyu's case, he wants to use Ji-Won to bust a North Korean spy ring and get back into the good graces of his former employers. Ji-Won, however, is not about more spy work for the North Koreans. Instead, he worries about the safety of his family back in North Korea, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he sees them again.

Secret Reunion may have a North Korea/South Korea storyline, but it's pretty much used only to set up the character dynamic. Ideology, politics these things matter little, with human understanding between the two lead characters taking center stage. What starts as a spy thriller morphs into something resembling a buddy film, but it's an entertaining one, with Song and Kang nailing their characters' suspicious, two-faced relationship. No stranger to sloppy but admirable dopes, Song Kang-Ho inhabits his character exceptionally, and does so without overshadowing his co-star, who obviously has the cooler role. Kang Dong-Won gets to brood charismatically as the steely Ji-Won, and his action sequences are good too. When roughhousing, Kang's fighting style is sharp and quick compared to Song's sloppy punches, but both hold their own quite well. Jang Hun is an ace at putting together fun onscreen action, with rough brawling, solid impact, and strong editing all adding to the effect. For the action and the actors, Secret Reunion doesn't disappoint.

Where the film does falter slightly is in its depth, which eschews anything challenging for common, safe cinema values. If there's a harder edge to Secret Reunion, it doesn't seem to exist onscreen. Both Ji-Won and Han-Gyu are presented with seemingly tough choices, but neither truly strays from the righteous path, making them both admirable and more than a little predictable. Despite the overly commercial screenplay, the film is solidly entertaining, thanks to Jang Hun's sharp, disciplined direction. Jang doesn't bog down his film with too many plotlines and agendas; the film possesses a clear story and two charismatic lead characters, and Jang paces the film crisply and efficiently. The ending trends towards mega-mega happy, but it's all good. Anyway, if the viewer finds the whole thing a little too agreeable for their edgy cinema needs, they can still fall back on the actors, whose cinema coolness is never in doubt. Secret Reunion has room for a sequel. If it's just to get Song Kang-Ho, Kang Don-Won and Jang Hun back together, then they should start working on that film. Now. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2010)

  Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-DVD Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Various Extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Udine Far East Film Festival Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen