“Private Eye” presents a new visage to the dominating trend of crime-solving thrillers, by placing the story in 1910 Seoul, when Korea was still under Japanese occupation.
Hong Jin-ho is a private detective, who earns his paycheck by discovering women cheating their husbands and by selling photos to the newspaper. His dream though, is to earn enough money to go to the United States. Gwang-soo, a medical doctor in training, discovers a corpse in the woods and decides to take it home to dissect it, in order to practice on human beings. However, he finds out that the body belongs to the son of the Minister of Cabinet, with the politician having already made a huge fuss about his son’s disappearance. Not knowing what to do, he seeks Jin-ho’s help and after he promised him a large sum of money, he agrees.
The case becomes even more complicated, when the police commissioner is found dead in the same spot, while the corrupt cop Oh Young-dal is also investigating the case and a circus makes its appearance in town.
Park Dae-min directs a film that begins like something between a comedy and a penny dreadful. After a while though, it becomes a shattering noir with the plot twists coming one after the other, and a vicious and totally unexpected turn that transcends the film into something much serious that it seemed in the beginning. In that fashion, he manages to retain the agony throughout its duration, and even shocking the spectator during the end.
The action scenes are very impressive, although the camera, at points, seems to move in a somewhat frantic pace. Particularly the one through the houses is very entertaining, in the style of old Jackie Chan films. Furthermore, the various shots in the circus are impressive and the depiction of the era, elaborate.
The absolute protagonist of the film is Hwang Jung-min as Hong Jin-ho, who gives another great show, magnificently portraying his character in the comic, the dramatic, and the action scenes. Ryu Deok-hwan is adequate as Gwang-soo, although he is definitely overshadowed by the former’s presence. Oh Dal-su as Oh Young-dal has one of the few roles that his character is not one for comic relief and proves his amplitude. Yoon Je-moon is also great in the role of the evil character, and at times steals the show with the cold-heartedness he depicts.
“Private Eye” is a film that combines artfully elements of comedy, action, and drama, with a noir atmosphere to present a very entertaining outcome.
The film is currently streaming on DramaFever