Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Accidental Detective 2: In Action/Inaction

As of a few years ago, it was technically illegal to work as a private detective, tattoo artist, or chiropractor in South Korea, but people did so anyway, because where would film noir be without those three professions? A cop and a civilian who recently helped him solve a case are convinced the law will soon change, so they have started their own agency to get in on the ground floor. That first case will take its sweet time walking in their door, but when it does, it also brings some serious danger with it in Lee Eon-hee’s Accidental Detective 2: In Action (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Jersey.

Kang Dae-man has gone from one Peter Pan career to another, selling his comic book store to open the detective agency with No Tae-soo, but he hasn’t told his wife yet. Similarly, No has not told his partner he is hedging his bets, taking a leave of absence from the force, rather than fully resigning. It will all come out during the stress of their first case: the murder of Kim Jae-min, not that the cops believe it was anything but an accident.

Coincidentally, Kim is one of several orphans who has recently died under mysterious circumstances, but there is one thing that sets him apart. He has a pregnant wife, who very definitely misses him. It is also weird how the well-heeled orphanage continues to take an active interest in their former charges well into proper adulthood. It will take real evidence to convince the new captain at No’s old precinct, so they recruit quirky Grasshopper to Piers Morgan a suspect’s phone. Henceforth, he will become their goofball mascot.

There is no question Grasshopper’s shtick can be painful to watch, but by and large, AD2 is a genial action-mystery-comedy. Frankly, the stakes are unusually high for the genre, but Lee still maintains a mostly lighthearted vibe. She and co-screenwriter Jung Han-jin even poke good-natured fun at crime movie conventions, as when our intrepid detectives first meet the head bad guy. Kang tellingly notes, if this were a movie, he would be the villain, which he is, because it is a movie.

Sung Dong-il is a good sport, looking all craggy and sour, even while he gets sucked into the chaos around him. Kwon Sang-woo is loud and clumsy playing Kang, but he still manages to be all business in a few key moments. Lee Kwang-soo’s Grasshopper just doesn’t translate well, but Kim Dong-wook steals several scenes as the maybe-not-quite-so-by-the-book Captain Kwon Chul-in.

AD2 has one very good chase sequence and a decent action climax, which is definitely not nothing. It is not even a pale shadow of The Villainess, but many non-Koreans would probably enjoy its breeziness if they had an opportunity to see it. Think of it as a pleasant-tasting light beer, but not an Amstel, when Accidental Detective 2: In Action opens this Friday (6/22), at the Edgewater Multiplex in New Jersey.