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Miss & Mrs. Cops
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by Jay Seaver

"Almost the buddy-cop movie it's trying to be."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This movie opens with an entertaining bit of action and then, immediately, informs the audience that it's not going to be getting any more of that for a while, and I'm not going to lie, that's pretty disappointing. It's also got a different sense of where the line between hostile and abrasive is than American buddy-cop movies, and while it should - it is South Korean, after all - It's got trouble maintaining a tone that works in other ways. The mean streak you often find in even Korean crime comedies doesn't serve this one very well, especially when it's trying to be very silly and very solemn at the same time.

That first bit of action takes place back in 2002, when Park Mi-Young (Ram Mi-Ran) was a rising star in a Special Women's Task Force, catching a drug dealer and making an impression on a pair of bystanders - would-be prosecutor Cho Ji-Chul (Yoon Sang-Hyun) and his younger sister Ji-Hye, who had not realized women could be cops. Fifteen years or so later, Ji-Hye (Lee Sung-Kyung) is a detective but mostly gets assigned to serving as bait to catch minor creeps, while her brother never passed the bar and Mi-Young left the force to work as a civilian in the complaints department after giving birth. An incident lands Ji-Hye on the same desk as Mi-Young and computer whiz Yang Jang-Mi (Choi Sooyoung) when a college student comes in to report a case of sexual extortion, and with no chance of the computer crime division solving it by the end of a 24-hour deadline.

You can see everything set up so well - a pair of sisters-in-law becoming reluctant partners to solve a case that the men on the force don't necessarily see as a big deal, backed up by a hacker who, between the sexism the film is targeting and cop movie-cliches, is actually extremely overqualified for the job she has - and the three top actresses are all a lot of fun to watch. Ram Mi-Ran is pugnacious as Mi-Young but not so far into that she's out of place at this sort of desk, while Lee Sung-Kyung does a nice job of making Ji-Hye a woman who is obviously similar - an early scene shows them as mirror images despite one being opposite physical types - while still having her own personality. Sooyoung plays off them well as the cheerful geek who complements their sour, intense dispositions.

The action at either end is pretty impressive, in part because Ra Mi-Ran never looks like the usual image of an action heroine - and the doubling is oftentimes fairly obvious - seems to be having so much fun just diving into it, mixing it up with bigger guys, and moving well between action and physical comedy. That there's relatively little action between the opening flashback and the final showdown isn't the weakness it could be - it lets the makeshift team actually serve as detectives rather than just crash their way from one scene to another - but the bits in between are seldom as punchy, with the snappiest moments related to a subplot about avoiding a supervisor's notice that only works about half the time.

Jung Da-won's script makes a few leaps and bogs down in other places, and the contrast between its nasty crime story and slapstick comedy is almost always awkward. The film changes direction in the last act like a car backing up seven times to make a relatively small turn, to the point where one almost wants it to just switch things up and not worry about how it gets from a clunky bit about Mi-Young and Ji-Hye waiting in line at a nightclub to fighting the gang's ringleader. Of course, I suspect that some jokes get lost in translation, from a funny foreigners bit to how a cameo appearance toward the end is likely much funnier to Korean audiences. Other times the jokes just seem ill-placed, like when Mi-Young rolls into a foot chase that was actually working pretty well on a Segway.

After "Extreme Job", this is the second Korean action-comedy playing the festival that I wouldn't mind seeing remade in English (and with a different name, as "Miss & Mrs. Cops" is awkward and "Girl Cops" is dumb), as there's good material here but it doesn't always connect as well as it could. There's a passable cop movie here that mostly does well by its female leads without becoming girl-power platitudes, but the jokes are seldom as good as what's around them.

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originally posted: 06/12/20 11:46:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Jung Da-Won

Written by
  Jung Da-Won

  Mi-ran Ra
  Sang-Hyun Yoon
  Soo-Young Choi
  Sung-Kyoung Lee

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