Monday, 9 September 2013

Cold Eyes (감시자들) (2013)

A police surveillance unit stakes out the streets to identify and bring down an uncommon team of heist criminals whose expertise in subterfuge comes from being schooled in the art of surveillance themselves. Whose methods will ace the operation, whose subterfuge will reign supreme?

Such was the great premise of Eye in the Sky, the original 2007 Hong Kong film. The production (with Johnny Toh assistant Law Wing Cheong at the helm) was a joy to watch as its concept demanded the film be made as an old school heist film, i.e. a highly technical double procedural, with the cop procedural in a head-on collision with the heist procedural.

As with other remakes, Cold Eyes is a cinematic juggling act. How far will it stick to the tried and tested before breaking new ground that will justify its existence? The location is now Seoul and characters take the subway instead of the electric tram but for all intents and purposes, Cold Eyes is a plot point for plot point, character arc for character arc remake of Eye in the Sky—right down to the annoying let-down of setting up a proficient, surveillance-savvy heist crew in the first act only to have the blindsided surveillance team catch on to them because of an unbelievable rookie error.

When it does decide to innovate, the results are mixed. The criminal mastermind here (Jung Woo-sung) seems to be a genius right out of a recent Guy Ritchie action/thriller franchise. He plans everything out by staring at a collection of maps and floor plans pasted on a wall of his bachelor pad, then visualises the entire heist in his mind. That’s good. In addition to his planning skills and natural genius, he’s also a cold-blooded killer who frequently stabs people to death with a fountain pen in this remake. That’s not good, given the other gimmick of the original was the pure battle of wits and white collar rivalry of the leaders of the surveillance team and the heist team.

As with Korean cinematic offerings, Cold Eyes is slickly produced, blessed with near Hollywood action budgets (though with sub-par CGI), and very long. To the credit of its writing team, the film suffers from none of the problems of the Overlong Korean Film. With each key scene, plot, and arc uniformly extended from the original, there is no danger of pacing issues.

No comments: