Eye in the Sky (2007) & Cold Eyes (2013)

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I remember watching this in 2007 and thinking it was one of the most refreshing investigative procedurals that came out of Hong Kong. It focuses on a particular police department whose skill set consist of 3 elements – observe, remember, report. Yau Nai Hoi’s Eye in the Sky is one lean and taut thriller, a battle with wits, a cat and mouse game, a terse chess game. The director just did enough to flesh out the good guy (and his disciple) and the bad guy. Everybody else is peripheral. The editing and sound editing are fantastic. A superb film. A search on iMDB says Yau never did direct anymore movies. Unbelievable!  But he continues to write screenplays.

My missus loves this cat and mouse genre and enjoyed the film. She says there are no terribly weak spots in the film except perhaps Kate Tsui. This was Kate Tsui’s debut and she could see her look doesn’t quite fit the role of Yam’s protégé. She is puffy around the eyes and has a bit too much baby fat on her face and her eyes seemed lazy.  My expert wifey says she has definitely gone on to do plastic surgery to solve all that. Nothing wrong with her acting though.

Then we moved on to the Korean remake…

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We love it!  Even though we saw Eye in the Sky, it didn’t make Cold Eyes lackluster by one bit. We were thrilled all the way to the last second. The original is already an awesome film in its own right, but you need to watch how the Korean remake improves upon it by many levels.

I never thought there were much weak spots in the original, except for the newbie character played by Kate Tsui. Tsui just didn’t manage to communicate that she has the smarts even though she did manage to translate the heart in her character. Watch closely how Han Hyo-joo plays the newbie. Nuanced, layered and believable. The scenes with her in it are brilliant. I could feel her joy, her anguish, her sadness and her triumph. A brilliantly well-drawn character.

I don’t want to take anything away from the HK movie but this remake really surprises me. It maintains the reverence for the original but yet it manages to tighten up many parts. The peripheral characters in the original are no longer invisible and unmemorable. Everyone in team isn’t faceless anymore and each one has a moment to shine. They stick in my consciousness, especially the Squirrel character and the boss, originally played by Maggie Sui. Sui plays a one-note foul-mouthed boss but here the lady boss is a well-defined character.

Those of you who are fans of the original will no doubt have Simon Yam and Tony Leung Kar Fai’s roles entrenched in your consciousness. The two Korean actors who played them are stupendous. In particular the villain. I love how very early on, we are treated to a scene where he shows he is the man with the plan and how he values the importance of one minute. All through the movie, I believe he is the ultimate and most worthy opponent to the team. Simon Yam’s character is brilliantly played too. He is still the paternal figure and wise leader to the team but this time round, more scenes were written for him. I love the first meeting between him and the newbie where he coaches her on how to deconstruct a crime scene.

The other character that I love is the city of Seoul. The impressive cinematography really made it an important character in the film. The pacing is impeccable, the energy kinetic and the tension awesome.

Finally, I also love how the film-makers retained the original ending which brimmed with irony and Karma, but marvel at how it is done here with reverence and yet has such a refreshing impact.

Trailer for the Hong Kong film

Trailer for the Korean remake

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