A covert joint operation that reluctantly brings together a North Korean investigator and a South Korean policeman pays entertaining dividends in “Confidential Assignment,” an unapologetically mainstream caper that plays like a vintage Hollywood buddy cop movie.
After a corrupt official named Cha (Kim Joo-hyuk) sneaks into South Korea with U.S. currency plates stolen from a counterfeiting raid, Cheol-ryung (Hyun Bin), a former special forces agent with a personal grudge against him, is dispatched by North Korean Homeland Security to Seoul to secure the plates and the perp.
Much to the steely, by-the-book Cheol-ryung’s aggravation, he’s partnered with the decidedly softer Detective Kang (Yoo Hae-jin), a South Korean family man whose pursuits always seem to be interrupted by phone calls from his young daughter.
Their resulting yin-yang might be the stuff of countless crime comedies, particularly the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover dynamic in the “Lethal Weapon” series, but South Korean filmmaker Kim Sung-hoon has clearly done his homework while injecting the action sequences with a terrific kinetic energy.
But the film’s two biggest secret weapons are those lead performances by Hyun Bin and Yoo Hae-jin, whose easy Riggs-Murtaugh chemistry compensates for a pace that occasionally gets sidetracked by the overly extended domestic sequences.
When their next assignment is teased over the end credits, the conceit makes for one of those rare sequels we actually wouldn’t mind seeing.