Two Cops

Two Cops, the new Korean comedy, proves that the policier genre can easily cross national and language barriers. This character-motivated farce, about the changing relationship between a corrupt, easygoing cop and his rigid partner, has the casual charm and appeal to put the new commercial Korean cinema on the international map, very much like its neighbors from China and Hong Kong.

Up to a point, Two Cops feels like a variation of the l984 French smash hit Les Ripoux (released in the U.S. as My New Partner), which swept the Cesar Awards that year. However, instead of the aging cop played by the irresistible Philip Noiret, in the Korean version detective Cho (Sung Gi-Ahn) is a younger, more handsome detective, whose expensive lunches and lifestyle are just as–if not more–important as his on-duty tasks, though he's basically an efficient pro when action is needed.

Story begins as veteran officer Cho is assigned a new, by-the-book partner, detective Kang (Joong-Hoon Park), a recent Academy graduate. Kang is at his partner's tail whenever he smells bribe and other shenanigans that violate his strict code. But as expected, after some personality clashes, moral charges and insults of ineffectiveness and impotency, the rigid officer begins to loosen up and enjoy the side benefits of his job–luxury meals, beautiful women. Eventually, he even outdoes his more experienced mentor.

Though conforming to a time-honored genre, scripter Sung-Hong Kim provides a sufficient number of fresh observations, plot twists, and role reversals to make his picture entertaining even for viewers familiar with the formula's conventions. Kang's helming, which is both simple and unobtrusive in the positive sense of these terms, is a neat balancing act between dialogue and action scenes. His unembarrassed love for physical comedy is reflected in the richly inventive visual sight gags.

Production values, particularly Kwang-Suk Chung's lensing of Seoul, are mediocre, which could be a function of the low budget. But the two leading performers, who are adept at physical comedy, are always attractive and fun to watch. Some, though nor enough, flavor of Seoul's distinctive culture is conveyed in the outdoor sequences.

With a running-time of 108 minutes, Two Cops could benefit from a trimming of at least 15 minutes, especially the scenes that involve the women in the cops' lives, which are not very satisfying and also detract attention from the far more engaging central line, which is character rather than plot driven.