At The Movies: Buddy cop movie Confidential Assignment 2: International gets the job done

Yoo Hae-jin (left) and Hyun Bin in Confidential Assignment 2: International. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

Confidential Assignment 2: International (NC16)

128 minutes, opens on Thursday

4 stars

The story: In this sequel to action comedy Confidential Assignment (2017), Cheol-ryung (Hyun Bin) returns as the disciplined North Korean super-agent, and also back is the laid-back South Korean cop Jin-tae (Yoo Hae-jin). Both are assigned to track down a renegade North Korean operative who has become one of South Korea’s most brutal drug dealers. Things are further complicated by the appearance of gung-ho American FBI agent Jack (Daniel Henney). Meanwhile, Min-young (Im Yoon-ah), Jin-tae’s sister-in-law, is besotted with the handsome Cheol-ryung and hopes he remembers her from the previous assignment.

If you took the good bits from classic odd-couple cop movies – throw in a dash of Rush Hour (1998), a splash of Bad Boys (1995) and a pinch of Lethal Weapon (1987) – the result would be this entertaining package, an action-comedy that does not take itself seriously yet never crumbles into complete silliness.

Credit must be given to Yoo Hae-jin, a gifted comic actor whose average Joe humanity keeps everything anchored. His role might not be the most original – he plays the henpecked husband who goes to comical lengths to keep his wife in the dark about his love of danger – but Yoo’s light touch makes his part feel fresh and funny.

Heart-throbs Hyun Bin and Daniel Henney play the suave foreigners whose presence causes a disturbance in the feminine force in Jin-tae’s family. In a scene that recalls Bad Boys, they do a cool slow-motion strut, exuding seismic waves of handsomeness. Henney’s American cop utters a few words of Korean and the natives who hear it melt in appreciation – it is a layered poke at pretty privilege, but also a jab at locals who fawn over Korean-speaking expatriates. In Rush Hour, nobody in America praised Jackie Chan’s character for speaking English.

Like the hit South Korean comedy Extreme Job (2019) – about cops who take over a chicken restaurant for a stakeout, only to find that selling fried chicken is their passion – Confidential Assignment 2: International is powered by strong, character-driven jokes. In a brilliant early sequence, a car chase is made funny by the inclusion of a bit about in-car cup noodle-eating. In one elegant move, it sells action and reveals Jin-tae’s dogged personality, all capped with a great joke.

This stands in contrast to the Hollywood buddy cop movie of today, which tends to let one hyperactive actor, a professional comedian (someone like Kevin Hart), carry the entire movie with non-stop riffing or have both cop buddies do talky stand-up bits disguised as conversations.

Hot take: A buddy cop comedy better than anything Hollywood has made in ages.

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