117

Movie Review: Covertly, Grandly

It’s that mid-cycle lull in dramaland, aka the perfect time for that most honored of critical traditions: reviewing movies I’d been meaning to watch but hadn’t quite gotten around to yet. It’s a very strenuous decision-making process which involves me, a hat, and three or four recognizable movie names from the past year or so—culminating in this week’s completely random and totally-unbiased-toward-its-pretty-cast choice of Covertly, Grandly (also known as Secretly, Greatly).

It’s to no one’s surprise that Covertly, Grandly swept the domestic box office when that’s what it was made to do, though it did manage to surpass initial expectations by breaking the record for most tickets sold on its release date, an honor previously held by The Thieves—which consequently also starred ratings wonder and derpy-yet-adorable variety guest Kim Soo-hyun. I’m sensing a trend.

Based on a popular webtoon of the same name and touting itself as an action-comedy-drama, Covertly incorporates broad comedy, slick action, and a quirky premise into a popcorn flick with an identity crisis—the first half establishes a farcical and highly-stylized world where spies are seasoned slapstick fodder, while the latter half feels like a Very Serious Spy Movie with a fly-by-night political through line that can be boiled down simply: North Korea bad, South Korea good. Which is all fine and well until you ask, “And then?”

Note: For spoiler-y purposes, the ending has been separated into its own section which one can (ideally) avoid if one is so graciously inclined.

The premise: Three North Korean spies walk into a rural South Korean village. (I kid. But not really.) Their mission is to go undercover as sleeper cells while they wait for orders from the motherland, with their eventual goal aiming for the reunification of Korea.

This forces the three of them, all tough and hardened black ops agents, to take on varying personas ranging from village idiot to rockstar wannabe. The hijinks of the first half are funny enough on their own with tiny sprinklings of heart as our spy hero’s patriotic devotion wavers, all while he he grows fond of the villagers he’s come to know over time. The ones we end up meeting are well-realized characters with interesting backstories we only barely scratch the surface of. (I’d guess that they’re from the long-running source material, which is one of the many reasons why I couldn’t help but think that this would work way better as a drama.)

Then the title of the movie comes into play, as political tensions between North and South Korea reach a boiling point when the North is forced to give up their undercover spies. But instead of letting their best and brightest fall into enemy hands, the big bad North hands down a covert and grand mission of grave proportions to each of their agents—commit suicide with honor or be executed dishonorably. There is no middle ground.

We meet our hero, Captain Won Ryu-hwan (Kim Soo-hyun) as a super spy in the North just before he’s shipped to his assignment as an undercover citizen in the South. The inherent joke that comprises almost all of his early scenes is that he’s a certified genius fluent in five languages… yet his undercover persona is that of the village idiot replete with a bowl cut, a signature green tracksuit, and meticulously planned moments of public stupidity, like taking a pee in public every couple of weeks and a public poo every six months.

The name he adopts (and for ease of use, I’ll refer to him with it in this review) is BANG DONG-GU, which is infinitely less impressive than his real name. He’s loyal and patriotic almost to a fault, but it makes for some funny material as he interacts with the village he’s called home for the last two years while he waits for orders from his home country to arrive on his (wait for it!) pager.

He gets a few good fish out of water jokes, and one of my favorites comes when he’s narrating the circumstances of his day to day life which involves him squirreling money from working for a grumpy mother hen of an ajumma. In two years he’s managed to save a little over four thousand dollars, but to him, it’s like he’s won the lottery: “When I return to my hometown, I’ll be rich!”

We see his interactions with various townspeople, all of whom have taken to Dong-gu as one of their own. He’s got the girl he likes, the shop ajumma’s son (aka Dong-gu’s adoptive hyung), the shop ajumma (his adoptive mom), and a friend in the town’s prettiest girl who knows she can flash a little cleavage to get Dong-gu to give her free cigarettes.

There’s a good deal of townspeople introduced, and despite the fact that this is a movie and the time spent on them is finite, there are a few standouts in the cast. The pretty girl mentioned above, RAN (Lee Chae-young), makes an impression when she reveals her darkest secret to Dong-gu during a drunken confession, which paves the way for some nice follow-through as far as the plot is concerned by the end. In short: I liked her role as much as I liked the time spent on the townspeople, and wish this had been a drama instead (I know, again) so the exploration of their stories and Dong-gu’s change of heart because of them could’ve been better explored. Alas.

Another spy arrives in Dong-gu’s village to shake things up in the form of LEE HAE-RANG (Park Ki-woong), a high-ranking official’s son who doesn’t have to work, but has chosen to become a spy due to his competitive spirit. He cockily assures Dong-gu that he’ll be the one to succeed between them, which rubs Dong-gu so wrong that he follows Hae-rang the next day, determined to see what Hae-rang is doing soooo right.

Not only does he follow Hae-rang into an audition, he gets to watch as his competition takes the stage with the most assured of airs… only for Hae-rang to suck so badly at guitar that he can only manage to play the scales before he flashes the universal signal that he’s ready to rock. The fact that he does all this with a straight face is hilarious, especially since he stews about his failure with Dong-gu later, all shocked that the rock-n-roll training he got in North Korea is nowhere near the level of his more talented southern counterparts. Ha.

The middle portion of the movie slows down considerably as we see talking heads debate the future of politics that really don’t mean all that much to the story at hand—other than that they’re the catalyst for that most covert and grand of orders. Dong-gu is flawless at keeping his cover even as he starts to grow a heart, one which is tested when one of his older comrades asks for his help in obtaining a gun so he kill a few South Korean officials to save his captured family. Dong-gu remains loyal to his country and refuses to help him.

As he’s stopping his comrade-ajusshi from assassinating officials, our third spy, RI HAE-JIN (Lee Hyun-woo), is introduced as he’s assassinating officials. He doesn’t manage to assassinate a team leader of the National Intelligence Service—one who’s featured prominently in this story due to his inexplicable bleeding heart and his desire (nay, compulsion!) to save the North Korean spies from the suicide order. Why? Because the script told him to.

Out of the three spies, Hae-jin is the youngest and most gung-ho about serving his country, which makes him more dangerous because he’s used to killing people to solve problems. Dong-gu’s goal is to get him to not do that without seeming like he’s going against orders (mostly he wants to protect the townspeople he’s come to know), and he’s able to control Hae-jin’s impulses because the two go way back to Hae-jin’s training days, where Hae-jin learned to worship the very ground Dong-gu stands on.

I do think it must have been intentional to portray Hae-jin’s hero worship of Dong-gu with an almost homoerotic undertone, since the two share moments of skinship which affect Hae-jin more deeply than they should. Call me crazy, but it even seems like Dong-gu knows this to some degree and uses that knowledge to manipulate Hae-jin into not killing him or others, since Hae-jin is able to be swayed even if Dong-gu just shares his hat with him. It’s not played overtly, which is about the only thing in this movie that can claim anything close to subtlety, but it’s at least interesting.

The time the three musketeers spend among the townspeople is all too short and fails to impart a true sense of meaning to their relationships with each other as well as others, making this middle stretch seem interminably long. I’ll be honest in saying that Dong-gu failed to grab me emotionally, though I don’t think the fault rests solely with him. Hae-rang remained too vague, and while Hae-jin did a lot with the time he had, he just didn’t have enough of it.

Then comes the suicide order, and our boys’ reaction to it. Everyone reacts a little differently but, like sane people, none of them are keen on carrying out the mission. Their will to survive (save for Hae-jin, who’d rather be loyal to his country but is unable to shake off his loyalty to Dong-gu) is what carries the film into its drawn-out finale, which is basically one long battle sequence.

It’s neat from an action perspective, since it’s all shot quite well—nothing exceptional, but fine and well. We’re re-introduced to Dong-gu’s training commander, a scar-faced and criminally underused Sohn Hyun-joo, as he arrives in South Korea to carry out executions should any agent fail to kill themselves. He’s mostly just another commodity for this film to use, but at least he moves some plot along.

So, high stakes? Check. Even with those rocketing sky-high, without an emotional through line to tie us to the core characters or their admittedly-sometimes-relatable conflict (Dong-gu loves his mom so that should be universal, right? Right?), so much of this film just started to wash over me. I was starting to wonder whether I’d accidentally zoned out and missed the part where the rogue NIS agent gave a solid reason for his one man mission, or why some of the reveals meant so little, or which story I was supposed to be rooting for. Even with the suicide mission thrown in, the premise is pretty cut-and-dry—our three spies maybe don’t want to kill themselves. Simple, right?

Wrong. So wrong. I can’t get after this movie for not being the summer blockbuster I thought it was, but even without that, it’s just not all that good. The sheen is there, the acting talent is there, and it’s all pretty to look at in a mildly entertaining way. Characters behave exactly as you’d expect them to without any deviations. Those who were supposed to elicit sympathy really didn’t, those who were supposed to elicit scorn had scars on their faces or Nefarious Eyeglasses, only they didn’t have enough character depth to make us care, which means that so much that was meant to resonate just… didn’t.

That’s as simple and blunt a way as I can put it, and I’m not a huge fan of being so coarse when a movie like this seems harmless enough—it’s just that I really wanted to care (since that would’ve made this movie’s run time and subsequent review so much easier), but the story was just too unfocused and everywhere-at-once to allow me to fully invest. Funny thing, emotional resonance. You just can’t take that for granted these days.

THE ENDING

I made a separate section in A Werewolf Boy’s review for the ending because I loved it and couldn’t write a review without sharing it. I feel the exact opposite way about Covertly, Grandly’s ending, helped in no part because I really, really, really didn’t like it.

Here’s a not-so-condensed version of what happens: With a snazzy new haircut, Dong-gu bids adieu to the townspeople he’s come to know and love, fully expecting to be killed by his former commander. He’s mostly come to love his adoptive mother because he misses his real mom, the mom he’s been writing daily letters to for two years while being unable to send them. (It’s worth noting, however, that while Dong-gu can’t send even one letter across the border, agents like Hae-rang, Hae-jin, and Dong-gu’s commander must have discovered a toll-free super highway between North and South Korea.)

Dong-gu thinks that giving himself up to the north might save his mother, only to be told by his commander that his mother is likely dead, therefore negating any purpose Dong-gu had to follow orders. Or live. He fights for his life side by side with Hae-rang while Hae-jin weasels his way out of captivity with the NIS, an event I didn’t describe because Hae-jin does what Hae-jin does by protecting Dong-gu and gets captured for it. Then he makes his escape to protect Dong-gu.

Hae-jin’s character felt the most emotionally realized, especially near the end when he makes his last stand. Caring about Dong-gu doesn’t mean Hae-jin has to change who he is, and he doesn’t by the end of the film—he’s still like a brainwashed kid, unable to let go of his patriotic duty to follow orders. Dong-gu and Hae-rang make a dramatic stand in the rain to fight for their lives and each other, and are technically saved by Hae-jin when he arrives with the NIS.

Dong-gu’s commander wields a grenade in his last-ditch attempt to take the three musketeers to hell with him, but Hae-rang saves them by throwing himself and the commander off the roof before the grenade can explode. He dies, and while it was expected to see Dong-gu react to his death, Hae-jin’s reaction is more surprising. He even tries to shake Dong-gu out of his emotional coma by reminding him that Hae-rang just died to save them, all while he offers to hold off the NIS as a human shield so Dong-gu can escape.

But, Dong-gu would rather cry over what’s passed and the life he misses, dooming Hae-jin to become target practice for the NIS (he wouldn’t have surrendered anyway). In a futile effort to protect Hae-jin long after it’s necessary, Dong-gu uses his body to protect Hae-jin from gunfire, taking about ninety-seven shots before he makes a split-second decision to throw them both off the rooftop to their deaths. The end. Except Dong-gu’s adoptive mom finds a note he left her (“Don’t get sick!”) which could leave the possibility that Dong-gu might’ve survived, but I’m sticking with the mentality that no matter how silly this movie was, it’s wasn’t that silly.

With that out of the way, I can now say that this ending served as the nail in the coffin that was Covertly, Grandly. Tragic endings can be a powerful storytelling tool when used correctly, but more often than not (as any drama viewer can attest) they’re used very incorrectly, and that’s when we feel cheated. The ending can’t take the blame for the lack of fun in this film, but as the camera focused on the three dead leads I wondered, “Okay, so, what was the point?”

I’ve still got nothing.

NOT THE ENDING

Covertly, Grandly is a mildly funny film in its first half before it veers into serious dramatic territory, where it lacks the necessary heft to help shoulder such a suddenly heavy load. Ultimately forgettable despite all its untapped potential, Covertly is the rare kind of film that’s neither all that bad or good, and is just unremarkable enough to be called okay. 6/10.

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags: , , ,

117

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for reviewing this movie!

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you very much, too. I watched it and I wanted to see how you girls perceived it as I was dumbfounded and flabbergasted (yes! after this movie it IS possible). The radical change of tone and pace was too much fr me in such a short period of time. It couldn't convince me neither as comedy, nor as a close to tragedy.
Indeed, perhaps a 16 hours drama could do better.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Exactly.

I have gotten used to what I "fondly" call Korean endings to movies and dramas over the years, but this one takes the prize for being the most befuddling use of the Korean ending device that I can recall ever having seen, and for no apparent good reason.

It's well made, the cast is generally good (Kim Soo-hyun's eyes are luminous and tell stories of their own), but it is ultimately a waste of talent.

0
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm reading the comics that it's based off of now, and it stays extremely close to the original source material. The ending in the movie is exactly how the comic ended.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I just finished watching the movie on Youtube... And I still don't understand if Kim Soo-hyun's character died or not... or if any of the secret agents did... I came here to read the reviews to see if anybody else could figure it out...and obviously Im not the only one still thinking "Wtf was that?!?!"

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Of course he died. He fell from a 20(?) storey building, duh. :/

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This movie was not good. Not just the quality, but it was not even entertaining.

0
6
reply

Required fields are marked *

i watch this movie few days ago n i couldn't finish it. I thought the comedy not really success to deliver. I thought it just me who feel something wrong with this movie because this movie quite success in Korea, so i'm not the only one

0
5
reply

Required fields are marked *

ikr, i thought it was good but the moment i watched it i got bored, and i think people watch this movie because of the flower boys in it. -_-

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Same here. I quit halfway through and was wondering why it was such a big hit but I was bored watching it.

Glad to know I'm not alone.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

ZZzzzzzzzzz! I didn't even make the halfway mark. Painfully boring!!

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I didn't find it boring but the end really pissed me off. It felt like a bloody Chinese Triad movie. Don't matter how much you like the lead, you know where this is heading, and it sucks when you realize you were right.

0

comedy part was lame to me .. .but after getting heis bowled hair trimmed and all serious. .kim soo hyun was soooo coool .. .n i felt so sad when he found his passbook that his adoptive mom gave him with all the savings she did for him . . ..that makes me extremely sad

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Although I love all the actors in this drama (the lead actors especially. Kyaaaa!^^), I didn't feel the ending. It feels like it was uncompleted. But still a good movie!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Dang... the trailer seemed great and I adore the actors...
I'm still going to watch it, but I was really hoping for it to be epic.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes, this would have been great if this was a drama. The first half was entertaining and as always Kim Soo Hyun is just amazing. The second half...well, I was confused most of the time. Thank you for reviewing this Heads!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

The description and teasers seemed interesting and awesome, but . . . that's it?_,_

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

yes agree!

i just watching this movie. when it comes to the end, all i could say is ... "that's it?"

and btw I enjoy Kim Soo Hyun so much, so thank you for that.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yeah everyone is having a general WTF reaction to the second half and ending

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks a lot for the review.....now it's decided that I will not be watching this.....how can they tout it as an action comedy when the ending is so tragic and bad!!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow, thanks so much for reviewing this movie. I really wanted to see it but am soooo glad you saved me from wasting my time and effort to hunt it down and watch it. Whew!! Too bad the previews made it look really cute and funny. :(

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for the review.

I watched the movie last week and thought it a Frankensteinish production with where a slapstick comedy upper body with crudely sewn on to a tragic psychological spy story legs, thereby diminishing both.

I thought maybe I have overlooked some cultural subtly, but on reading your review, it seems I haven't.

The movie did not hold together and as a result it was not very good.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for the review, HeadsNo2!

I haven't seen this one but after reading your recap and seeing that you gave it a 6/10 I'd be saying you are WAY generous. If I'm going to watch a movie where all the leads bite the Big One then there better be hella story leading up to that dismal ending. Sounds like this one missed it by a long shot. Crossed off my list for sure.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow. Because this film had such young talent as Park Ki-woong, Lee Hyun-woo, and Kim Soo-hyun, I was all set to watch it (whenever possible) and love it. However, reading this review has given me second thoughts. It's obviously the writing that made the movie not that great. Which is disappointing, because I loved the premise. Now, I just feel annoyed that it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. So, yeah, may not watch this now.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I actually fell asleep in the second half...
I share the same sentiment... I got nothing from this movie...
But the scene at the end, when Donggu's adoptive mom found out his message, made me tear up, though I don't want to think of it as a possibility that Donggu survives...

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Really can't think of many American comedies where the wrap-up is "Everybody dies." I think the Brits do that sometimes.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I understand where you were coming from. TOTALLY!
I was totally excited for this drama because I love all three main leads to bits before they hit their stardom status today.
My love for Kim SooHyun dates back to When he was still playing the younger version in dramas (Will it snow for christmas, giant). and now that he has become the mal lead laterial, my love for him just grew. For Park Ki-woong, even before I was encapsulated by his portrayal of Shunji in Bridal Mask, I already was in awe of his acting since A Man's Story. Then there is Lee Hyun Woo WHo i will always remember fondly as the adorable Chandoo of God of Study.
They were the cast I was excited to watch cause I know visual wise they were eye candy and acting wise they were on top among their peers. So when I heard that the movie was box office, I was like, "This is a must watch. Surely it would be awesome with the amazing cast and good plot (it's Spies baby, spies, pretty bad-ass for me)
BUT sadly... hmmmnnnn... it was... urrggghhhh, painful to watch. even the funny was not funny. the awesome acting was just so out of place from this movie. SSSooooooo Wrong, just so wrong...
Why of why????
Though I give hat's off to the acting, the cinematography it just didn't ..... just wasn't...
Not a movie to recommend other than if your a very big fans of these guys and just want to see them.

But anyway thanks for the review. and i definitely second, third fourth fifth... and infinity your thoughts in this...

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I was expecting so much out of this movie when I first saw the trailer on Dramabeans and patiently waited for it, only to be disappointed. Just as you said, HeadsNo2, the movie only touched on the surface of things and there was a significant jarring of tone between the first and second half of the movie. Because of all that, I felt uninterested throughout it. It was only my great anticipation for this movie that kept me watching through it all.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

What kind of timing is that ? I was able to watch the movie with eng subs TODAY and you make a review at the same time lol.

And yeah, I was a little bit (or a lot) taken aback by the ending because I was soooo sure that it was a comedy/action and not some kind of drama where SPOILER SPOILER everybody dies. I didn't quite understand why they needed to die but for me, it's like they didn't want to surrender to SK forces because it would admit they were really anchovies. Thrown away by their own Republic who they believed in. Having their families killed. They became empty shells and couldn't possibly enjoy the freedom and happiness they've got in the village before. Dying as heroes, I guess.
And so, who the hell put the picture with the "don't be sick, mom" written in the wall. Did Dong Gu do that before he left ?
So many questions, it's killing me. If the movie tells the story of the webtoon with less details, I should check it then !
But yeah, you gotta love the bromance between the trio. I giggled inside when he put the beanie on Hae Jin lol. It was just soo cute and you could tell he loves and admires him so much. As for the rocker, a big lol when he was all that serious and then "I didn't know South Koreans kids were so good at guitar and singing !"
I also wanted to have a longer insight on the village's people. The first half was gold because it was funny and full of warmth with these people's interactions between each other. Gosh', someone should make a drama of it ! But I heard there is going to be a second part. I don't know if it will be webtoon/movie but I hope they explain some plot holes on the story ^^

Kim Soo Hyun is such a talented actor. I was already amazed in that scene in Dream High where while singing Dream, he cried so badly. Plus, the guy can sing (and even better than the other male lead who is supposed to be a singer in the first place lol). He is an allkill and I like the fact he doesn't try one type of character. It's great to see him having so much success nowadays. You can tell he worked hard for it.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

It is interesting to me that you hated the ending to this movie but loved the ending to A Werewolf Boy. I felt the exactly oppositely.

I loved the ending, it felt very justifiable for reason I'm scared of writing in this post because of Spoilers. The ending was perfect to me.

The ending to A Werewolf Boy on the other hand felt frivolous and unneeded.

This is why I love discussing/reading movie reviews!!

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

totally agree with you about the ending of "werewolf"!!!

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm glad I wasn't the only one :)

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

The main message was actually to say that you should be thankful for the safe and comfortable life you have now because in the end Dong gu states that he wants to live in a common house and a common family with a common life in his next life. It is why this movie is now ranked the highest. I'm Korean so I know this stuff :)

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

thanks, yours is a very helpful comment for me. My disappointment in the movie is tempered by seeing it as having a main message for those living on the Korean peninsula.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I waited for this movie to be uploaded, but I wasn´t quite content. they did not open the motivation of the characters nearly enough, they did not give them a chance to really grow, it was just a sudden turnaround in the middle and action to the grim end.

all in all it is a house buildt from candy sticks, you know. it doesnt fall apart but it doesnt stand very firm either. I am not going to be the Big Bad Wolf but someone will and blow your house down. all the connections are made with clay, come rain and they give in.

as to what you mentioned about homoerotic...I don´t quite see it that way. North Korea has ONE leader. But it is not a very charismatic leader. Just a shallow minded terrorist. But people have an urge to look up to leaders. and if someone displays leadership qualities, they become dangerous cause there can´t be many leaders. I think this admiration is more like a display of Leader culture. it is even more scary that way. it is like hitlerjugend....

0
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

listing major flaws:
not giving the parental background to all the characters
not letting the characters to "melt in" to the society
not showing us the hilarity of a clueless spy trying to make it to the idol world
not really showing us any spying
ending it without any real message.

WE get it, North Korea = Evil, people are its puppets, it giveth life, it taketh life away. Today you are in the clear, tomorrow you´ll be executed. youngsters are robbed of a normal life.
but I agree - waste of talent. Especially Park Ki Woong. For me, the thrill of the movie did not even cover the expense of the hair cuts.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I agree, no message. I thought the movie might be based on a true story, like Seetee Hunt-uh (which plastered "Events Are Fictional" all over the screen), but we don't even get that.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

naughty owl..

i had to read it out loud in my head to get it..

back to the movie, i was saving it for last over our weekend movies marathon (quite a short list tho cos it's basically anything on YT fully subbed) until my splitting headache became too unbearable.

so Heads, thanks for the review. we don't mind the spoiler (in fact we always welcome it) and will still pick it up in our next session but with more caution in mind.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I watched this movie because it was such a hit in korea that i thought i might be good. But i was disappointed. There're some good moments but overall the movie is bland. I wasted my time watching this.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

*spoiler* I didn't realize it was based on a webtoon. I liked it. It seemed short, and (as redfox and I discussed in this week's OT) we would have liked more background on the families they left back home. The betrayal by adjussi was a nooooooo (although for highly trained mission men, you'd think at least one of the would have considered it a possibility) and led to the doomed ending. Loved my 3 pretty mission men in this! *end spoiler*

Also, Korean films - Asian films in general - have a culture gap for me (As an American) that American/European films don't. I feel like I am viewing it from an eerie bird's-eye and dream-like distance as if I can't really know its essence. It's kind of a cool feeling, actually, but leaves a lingering incompleteness or unknowingness.

Thanks, HeadsNo2 for the recap and comments. I think I'd go with a 7 for Secretly Greatly.

\/

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

they should have added some supernatural amnesia.. with unicorns and giraffes. we would have gotten a general view...not that I liked the general very much.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm the last, la-a-a-ast unicorn~

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I totally got the homoerotic vibe and actually thought that was the most interesting part of the movie - I'd watch it again for their relationship alone.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

So true *hug*
I wish there were more bromance scenes ;a;

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Watched this movie with my friend the other day. I liked it, she hated it.

I enjoyed the movie and I did cry in the end, even if I was spoiled. I like it when I get enough emotionally invested into things that they make me cry because that doesn't happen all the time with me. I can watch people cry or incredibly sad scenes in dramas and almost not feel anything at all. I like being that emotionally invested in things.

That damn bankbook and the relationships between the main guy and the family that he lived with got to me. I also found it cute and endearing for a while, then the angsty bit came and the movie changed a lot and I wish they had been more smother (?) with the narrative. I would probably watch it again though, because I found parts of it cute and I like the cast.

It isn't a masterpiece though and I don't really understand why it got so popular in Korea. Probably because of the cute guys(?).

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

*or should I rather say as popular in Korea as it did.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Seriously, Hae-jin hero-worshipping Dong-gu really had me at a pause at times. This guy isn't just hero-worshipping DG, he has a CRUSH on him LOL They are so adorable. I love everything about the first half of the movie, then everything went all crazy serious and dark. By the end, I had the biggest eye roll ever. FCK EVERYTHING!

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I totally agree about the crush part. My friend and I got rather bored when we were watching the second half of the movie and the only thing that made us go "OOOOHHH" was the thing going between Hae-Jin and Dong-gu.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

the part about how Ajumma found Dong Gu really made no sense. You find a confused (wounded?) guy in a suit on the street and take him home to become the village idiot - pretty smooth spy-plant there, NK! I did enjoy the first part, though.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ajumma knew that Dong Gu wasn't really an idiot. You find that out in the scene where he saved her from the glass. He wanted to hit the guys put Ajumma told him not to. Also when he leaves, it's pretty clear she knew something was up, maybe not that he was a NK spy, but she knew to a degree.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

OH NOESSSS! This is wrong. What to do? I must see for myself now. Thanks for the review anyways.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ughh. This movie could've been so epic...!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

i JUST watched this yesterday, on youtube (yes, it's on youtube, just search fro "secretly, greatly") because I had remembered that the posters for this movie was EVERYWHERE when I was at Korea this summer. I agree with Heads. This plot was wasted on a movie. Should have been a drama, especially if there was going to be not one spy, but three spies.It would have given more time for the emotional built up between the spies and the local people.

I really loved all of the characters-there were just so well written and acted by the actors/actresses. Parts that stood out for me was PKW's dry, self deprecating laughter (but that maybe just because I still see him as Shunji. I actually yelled, "oh shoot, Shunji's dying again!" when Hae-rang died). But the second part was just a glorified, long-drawn fighting scene. So disappointed. Would give less than 6 out of 10. Maybe 4 or even 3...

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I ANTICIPATED a funny action comedy blockbuster. Boy, was I disappointed. I would NOT recommend this flick.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I was so excited for this film. And then I could only get through the first ten minutes of it on youtube.

Sigh.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

<>

OHMYGOD. You have no idea how happy I am to see this because i swear i just watched it today and was going to request for a review at the open thread but lo and behold, you guys read my freaking mind.
Anywhos, I so so agree with you too because I had such high expectations for it since I love the three boys and they're so pretty to look at but when i was done, i was just wondering if it was just me or if it really was that bad. Aaaaand yeah, it was that bad. I just wished that i could have seen more wavering confusion and angst between the spies so we would be more emotionally invested in them. And if they wanted to us to care about kim soohyun and his 2nd mom, then they should have spent more time on their relationship before making it such a big deal at the end. I loved watching the 3 together but i honestly did not care much when they all died, just found it a pity. I think the main problem is that they didnt have a solid THEME to the story, and they had so much to work with. If it were about north korea raising the spies like 'monsters' and then shipping them to south korea only to have them question their goals and come to love s.korea so they decide to team up with s.korea and fight against n.korea and prevent more 'monsters' being made, i think that would have made a pretty good story. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. There was so much wasted potential in this freaking movie it kills me. The only thing i liked was parkiwoong wanting to pass his rockstar audition and the homoerotic relationship between leehyunwoo and kimsoohyun. They didnt even have to include the whole spythingmabob in and i would have loved it. SIGH.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

A lot of Korean movies (and as we know, dramas) suffer from this lack of balance in tone. However, I did not think a blockbuster in 2013 would make that same mistake. You simply cannot start something as a slapstick comedy, complete with toilet humor and end it as a tragedy.

If you're going to mix comedy with drama and make it into a comedy-drama (so, a human, warm and light drama), it has to be balanced and the tone has to be maintained throughout. This movie failed, partly because of that.

Also, as you said, it tried to do too much and everything was confusing. The main characters did not have enough time and effort invested in them beyond their functions as spies and the townspeople only got a tiny rushed about, while they would have been great to explore more.

This tried to be an action drama spy suspense comedy thriller and it just doesn't work that way. It feels like two movies. It's a shame, because I expected a movie with pretty boys in it to be very shallow and mostly about showing them being pretty, but the little flashes of heart in this made me like what I was seeing. But that potential was shot dead by the movie's confusion with its genre and what it ultimately wanted to say.

So, it was way better than I expected and it's an ok movie, but for the hype and its potential, a disappointment.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I had the rare chance of catching this in the theatres while I was in NYC this summer. As I am a pretty big Kim Soo Hyun fan, I wanted so badly to like this movie. And the first half indeed was very enjoyable and promising, but the second half completely ruined all the goodwill the movie had accumulated up till the mid point. Not only was the movie just all over the place tonally, but the ending felt entirely unearned. You cannot just shove tragedy in the audience's face and expect them to feel devastated (and that is exactly the sort of ending this movie had, the kind that felt designed, in an inorganic and manufactured way, to devastate you), you have to lay the groundwork beforehand for such an ending to have any sort of emotional impact.

So this was basically me during that last rooftop scene, "Okay, Soo Hyun's character can't die. Nah, they're not gonna go there. THIS WHOLE THING WILL HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY POINTLESS IF ALL THREE OF THEM DIE OMFG ARE YOU REALLY FUCKING PULLING THAT SHIT ON ME RIGHT NOW?!"

UGH.

re homoerotic undertones: I DEFINITELY sensed some sexual tension between Soo Hyun and Hyun Woo's characters, though I didn't really think much of it when I was watching the movie. I think that's one of the more interesting things about the movie, the relationship between the three boys, the unusual bond that they share having come from the same brutal, ruthless place. They did milk that cow for all its worth in the final stretch, what with all the "sacrificing". Ugh, to think that they traded all that bromantic (and potentially romantic) goodness for zilch. Seriously, the more I think about it, the more it makes me mad that there was absolutely no emotional payoff in the end.

I'm glad the movie did so well commercially for the sake of the actors. The three leads were all varying shades of awesome. Hopefully, this success will open more doors for Ki Woong and Hyun Woo.

It feels like Kim Soo Hyun has already reached his peak, and tbh, I don't know how I feel about that. He is such a great actor, able to emote and embody the characters he plays so fucking well, and yet, his choice in roles lately have been very questionable. As a fan, I'm really happy for the unprecedented success he's found, but it's kind of a sore point for me that the projects that got him to this point were barely mediocre at best. Here's to hoping that I'll dig more than just his performance and character in Man From Another Star.

0
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

You bring up a good point.
Watching KSH now in everything he has ever done makes me wonder how better/different/stronger he will be when he "grows up."

It is interesting that SK has this built-in adult male making system with military service that literally separates the men from the boys. Not only does it give them time to mature, it also allows the public to stop seeing them as the young kid from the first part of the drama.

I don't see how he could have reached his peak, but I do understand that some of his roles haven't allowed him to dig deeper to show more. But what's an actor to do? He needs to be cast in a film by a brilliant film-maker or director, but at the same time take advantage of all the hit-movies and CF opportunities to make real money. Dramas are necessary, too, in order to keep his name in front of the buying public.

His looks separate him from the types of roles SHK and HJW have excelled at. It's not that he is perfect, but he is pretty.

Should he take time off from dramas and CF's and get his hands dirty, so to speak, making indy films? I don't know the answer. I am glad we get to see him, though, in a drama before he goes off to the army and then films.

0
6
reply

Required fields are marked *

I should have specified that when I said he has reached his peak, I meant it in terms of popularity and commercial success. He already has a drama with 40%+ ratings and two big blockbuster movies under his belt. On top of that, he also currently holds the record for signing the highest number of CF deals by a single celebrity. It's going to be hard enough to maintain this kind of momentum, much less top it. So I do think he has peaked in terms of his commercial appeal, but I have high hopes for his acting still. I cannot wait for him to "grow up", as you put it, because already he is such a commanding presence onscreen; it can only get better with age and maturity.

Who do you mean by SHK and HJW btw? I've been racking my brain for the past ten minutes, but I'm still clueless. Perhaps Ha Ji Won? Hmmm.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Shin Ha-kyun and Ha Jung-woo.

They both have a very large filmography and few dramas.

HJW has played all kinds of characters from sweet to psycho and is convincing no matter what, and I think he is hot as hell, but he certainly is not pretty.
Same with SHK, actually, though he has done a few tv dramas recently. He is in quite a few movies with Song Kang-ho, another film but no tv guy. I am crazy in love with Song Kang-ho, too.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm not familiar with Ha Jung Woo. In fact, the only other time I've heard his name was when Lee Jong Suk mentioned in his Hwasin interview that he wants to be manly like HJW, so really can't say much about him. Shin Ha Kyun, I saw in The Front Line, so I'm slightly more familiar with him. I think I see what you mean about KSH being separated from the kind of roles that these actors get to play. That is actually one of my concerns too, that because is he so pretty and so successful, to a considerable extent, BECAUSE of his prettiness, he won't be able to pick roles that will be anything but flattering to his flowerboy image. I have similar concerns for Lee Jong Suk. He's stated previously that he wants to play a psychopath, but will he get the call if such a role is ever up for grabs? Probably not. I wish image wasn't as important or influential as it is, but I guess if you want to play it safe with your popularity, you've just gotta conform to whatever image the masses has of you? My hopes for these two (more so for LJS than KSH, because his status and image is not quite as cemented as KSH's) is that they will pull a Song Joong Ki and prove to critics, masses, and the industry insiders alike that they are more than just pretty faces, and consequently have their pick of roles.

Ah, I've loved Song Kang Ho in everything I've seen him in! His filmography is beyond impressive.

0

Hello parksooha,

I really enjoyed reading both of your posts. I am asking this, really out of curiosity, really, and not because I like one celebrity more than another.

So here is my question: about this, "On top of that, he also currently holds the record for signing the highest number of CF deals by a single celebrity." Really? Because I thought celebrities like LMH and LSG still currently (maybe?) held that record. I think I read somewhere that LMH has done CFs for at least 30 different companies, some of which are international companies. Regarding LSG, I cannot prove it, however, I get the feeling that there is not a CF he has ever said "no" to (not if he could help it), and he has done a lot of them (from what I can tell). And yes, I know he is one of the faces and one of the voices of the brand Samsung. Could I be wrong about my assumptions I mentioned here?

As I said earlier, I was just wondering...

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hi Ivoire!

Kim Soo Hyun currently holds the record for having the highest number of CF deals simultaneously. So, while LMH and LSG might have accumulated more CF deals over the course of their careers, KSH concurrently lent his face as brand ambassador to more products last year than any other celebrity ever. Hope that clears the confusion. It was very misleading wording on my part; thanks for the catch!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hello parksooha again,
And thank you for your response. Yes, your explanation did help in clearing up the confusion. I appreciate it. Regarding this, "thanks for the catch!" you are very welcome!
It was just that your comment made me curious, so I thought I would ask for some clarifications.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for the review. It's pretty spot on. I still enjoyed the movie overall. I think this explains how you can have good acting but a not great story.

I agree that maybe a drama would help to expand on the background of the side characters, but the movie did a pretty good job with giving us enough information. I saw in the comments that the comic ended the same way. Maybe the writers didn't want to stray from the source material.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I think it was mentioned hae-rang is scarface's illegitimate child? Not that it changes anything narratively.

I was neutral to the ending, tho leaning towards "is there really a need to kill off everyone?" I thought this ending kinda backfired, though yes it made sense, but still a lil uncalled for, given it touts itself as an action comedy. Reminds me of High Kick 2.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks heads, Gooddrama just recently released this with complete subs so I'm glad I've watch it before reading this...about the ending, it's not my ideal one for this movie but I felt it was realistic and that's all I'm gonna say because I don't want to start ranting. This would have been better as a drama, the first half was so great and I wished the second half held its own.

And I really love Park Ki Woong in here, that could also be because I love Park Ki Woong in anything. LOL!!

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

...and also because of the hair, I freaking love the orange hair ♡

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I watched it few weeks ago. Finally, I found satisfactory subs for it. Not hating it but not liking it either. It was pretty, has all the themes that grab attention but lack substance. The 3 of them are competent officers so I kinda feel cheated they didn't show the 3 do any spy things, except for Hae Jin who assisinated whoeverthatguyis. So, at the end, after that WTF ending, you left feeling....thats it??? The ending..... come on! how could you did that to all three of them??? How could you did that to my Hae Jin?? T_T

Of all three, I quite suprised that I ended liking HaeJin more than Donggu. *spoiler* And he totally has a crush towards Donggu. Totally apparent when Donggu grab him close and they hide from that girl & her douche boss. It is obivious how much it affect him. And the hat thing. *end spoiler*

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I definitely did NOT like the end.. The rest of the movie was watchable but not that great..

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I know. This is totally how I feel. I love all these guys so much. And the plot could have been so cool. And then the ending just killed it.
Why were they given ridiculous undercover identities? Why that town? Why were they suddenly told to kill themselves? Why did they decide to not kill themselves, if they were just going to kill themselves at the end of the movie? I still have no idea.
I tried so. hard. to like this movie. I even tried for so long to come up with a reason why it could be good. But nope. Nothing.
Another small thing that bugged me. When the mom is all like, "if you're alive, send me a message" I so wanted her to find all the letters for his real mother that he hid. I thought it would be cool if they were actually kind of applicable. But no. It was some random note that he wouldn't even logically have the time to write, or the reason to hide it behind some picture.
There are so many ways this could have been better. Like if they gave more time to the relationships (and Hae jin's adorable crush) and the people in the village. And more scenes like when they come in and destroy the gangsters to protect his ajumma mom. But no. They had to spend the second half of the movie on a useless--we're not commiting suicide, unless someone tells us not to, and then we're going to jump off a roof so that we can be cooler and have a more painful death--kind of a plotline.
So disappointed right now.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Haven't watched the whole movie yet, but agree with the tenor of the comments - oh dear, what a waste.

Still gonna watch it, though maybe with a finger on the ff button...

This whole simplistic demarcation of good guys (usually Sth K), bad guys (usually Nth K) is something we've seen many times over (most recently, L7CS comes to mind) - and this is why I appreciated King 2 Hearts so much.

However, it leads me to a burning question, which I'm wary of asking, since it seems to be such a sensitive issue for many people: they talk about the importance of "reunification", but there's a lot of distrust and a real "us vs them" mentality. I mean, do they wanna reunite with the so-called "bad guys"? Do they want to reunify the people, or just the land/territory?

Guess no-one's gonna come up with a solution any time soon, but I was so hoping this movie would examine the issue in a meaningful way. :(

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I found the first part so funny with our hero using all his spy skills in normal banal village situations. Then I couldn't finish it. I didn't know why. But after seeing your review, I now understand. Your review is dead-on perfect.

Thanks.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This movie was so disappointing. It's actually pretty much how I felt about The Thieves: (mostly) enjoyed the first half; felt like the second was a completely different movie - and one I didn't particularly want to watch.

And why did they introduce a deus ex machina in the form of the bleeding-heart agent if they weren't going to use him to solve the problem? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOU, MOVIE. D:

Anyway, looking on the bright side, the awful second half did give me time to clean my living room, so there's that.

Thanks for the review, Heads!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I do agree with everything that's said in the review and what an awesome drama it would make.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I totally agree. The first half was nice and sweet and funny...but the second half was so terrible. I had no idea what was going on and the ending was a big slap on the face. It would have been nice if it was a normal heart-warming comedy film.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Actually, I disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Yes, they all died in the end, but I find that it was a fitting ending for them. They were ingrained as North Korean spies, it's not very realistic that they would give up patriotism (well apart from Dong Gu anyway, legit reason of doing everything for keeping his mom alive) just to live comfortably.
I get the message that the movie is giving us an insight that North or South, it's brutal for soldiers in the field, and infinitely sad for those who are just defending for their loved ones, or just struggling to percieve what is 'right'.
But ofcourse with a twist of humour and flower boys in the pot, how can I resist?
If it was meant to be a sad but heartwarming film with a dash of pretty, then yeah I'd say it was pretty well done.

Then again, I really would have loved to see this as a drama series as well, I wanna see more Park Kiwoong rockstar in the making and behind the scenes character as well ;)

0
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

I agree with Peverell. I also thoroughly enjoyed this movie and felt the ending was apropos.

I suppose i should say, spoilers, sweetie, here in case someone is reading this that has not viewed the movie.

*
*
*

-They were North Korean spies. Who in the world would think this movie would end with a happy ever after?

-I disagree that it was completely black and white NK=Bad SK=Good. Certainly there was a message that the NK ideology is outdated and futile. But I think it humanized the 3 characters, without totally compromising their honor, or the spy plot. That the villagers remembered them, and the convenience store mom refused to think of WRH with any animosity reflected the three as people, not as representatives of an ideology. The sympathetic agent served a purpose-the character represented the idealistic and romantic South Korean message, that despite the conflicting political ideologies, South Koreans see the North as family, and wish nothing more to see conflict end.

-I felt the comic bits, that a top notch NK soldier was posing as the village idiot was simply part of the message of the futility of the communist philosophy.

-Homo-eroticism=Absolutely intentional. And I personally felt it was not a onesided crush, I felt attraction went both ways. Won Ryu-hwan using it to manipulate? Absolutely, just as would have happened if they were of opposite sexes. My thought immediately on that as I was watching it, was that even though the plot made sure to let us know that WRH was not impervious to female assets, whether the boob thing, or his little crush on the village girl, because you know, we must have a manly hero (that was sarcasm), the show was not going to invest in a romance with the village girl because it negated the character development of WRH. If Won Ryu-hwan was the perfect soldier and spy, he would only use romance or sex for the purpose of the mission. Also, they could not compromise the honor of a "good South Korean" girl with being the romantic/sexual dupe of a NK spy. The point I was getting to was that evidently there was no room in the movie for a female spy (I did not notice any girls allowed in the spy club), the homo-eroticism added sexual tension to the movie. And as said, it was definitely, oh hello, interesting.

-Even though I enjoyed it, there were no surprises, well other than the homoeroticism.

-I would have loved to see more character development with Lee Hae-rang, because as usual, Park Ki-woong, put in a stellar performance as the cynical, pragmatic one of the bunch. I thought the cast was great all around.

0
5
reply

Required fields are marked *

As far as what I saw as his crush, possible both ways, that could have been a whole movie onto itself. It would have been beautiful and heartbreaking, and with those two actors, probably palatable to a mainstream audience.

Just that little bit was so intriguing and it added such a different texture to the film after all the goofiness.

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow, I did not realize how much I wrote when I responded to Perevell's comment. I guess I just got caught up in my thoughts. I really need to save some of these thoughts for my own bloody blog.

@jomo, oh I agree, how heartbreaking it would be, beyond what we already saw between them. And beautiful to watch develop, like you said, a whole movie on it's own. and the thought of the level of emotion those two actors could bring to the table, it's a crying all night shame that it DiD NOT happen.

I had a few issues with the whole "village idiot" thing in this day and age, but as far as I am concerned the goofiness was completely tolerable as Kim Soo-hyun's smile is such a wondrous thing to behold, he could have stayed covert the entire movie and I'd probably have been mesmerized.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I liked the goofiness.
The time he was talking to his NK friends on the roof and fell down the stairs to help the Ahjuma made me guffawf.

0

Great insight, totally read my thoughts ;) No worries on the long post, I get pretty carried away when I try to explain my points as well sometimes.

I'm not too big on the homoeroticsm, I can see it happening but in the end I like how it was played out, like a close hyung-dongsaeng relationship (but on the fine line of male ultimate crush on Hae-jin's part).

It's a good movie. I've seen alot of Korean ones, the only movies so far that have actually hit me quite hard would be Grandly, Covertly and The Werewolf Boy.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

@Perevell

My favs so far are Going By the Book, Sunny, and Heaven's Postman. I'm a Cyborg and That's Okay was pretty interesting lol.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I went and saw this movie on the big screen in a theatre with some friends, and we really enjoyed it, too. I thought it was everything a summer-blockbuster should be. We were entertained throughout, and while I agree this would have been better as a drama, I definitely felt an emotional impact from this movie that stuck with me for a few days afterwards. I think it also helped seeing it in the theatre - the action was more exciting on the big screen, and the audience was really into it, reacting audibly at all the expected points. It was definitely a fun movie-going experience, and I can certainly understand why it did so well at the box office.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I thought it was hilarious when I saw this review because I had just finished the movie ten minutes ago.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I guess i'm the only one who liked this movie....

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Nope, you are not alone.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I liked it. I cried.

There is another movie that does that still photo at the end that made me cry as the credits roll.
Joint Security Area

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I agreewith you.. Maybe in drama-form this could have been a great project. There were many things unexplained that I scratched my head the whole film asking "whats the point of them doing that?" they had talented actors and a wonderful premise but it had a messy ending. I watched it days ago with the "comedy" in mind... When it turned in an action film i was like "okay, forget comedy ill watch this as an action film" but then it switched once again to political film and I was lost... To me, it wasnt quite a comedy nor an action nor a political film so it was disappointing.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Currently Airing

Prime-Time Shows This Week
Monday-Tuesday (July 6-7) Wednesday-Thursday (July 8-9) Weekend (July 10-12)