REVIEW: Cold Eyes (2013)

In the most epic game of cat and mouse, a group of detectives who specialize in surveillance track down an elite band of thieves.

By Raymond Arcega
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Cold Eyes

Original Title: 감시자들
Year: 2013
Country: Korea
Language: Korean
Genres: Action, Thriller, Crime
Directors: Jo Ui-soek and Kim Byung-seo

Ha Yoon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) is a rookie detective who has just made it as a recruit of a special unit within the Korean Police Forces Special Crime Department. Their speciality is surveillance on criminals that the regular police can’t catch.


Ha Yoon-joo, brought on board by field veteran Chief Detective Hwang (Sol Kyung-gu), excels in her ability of surveillance, being able to observe and remember just about every detail of her surroundings. With her skill set, she and the rest of her team are tasked with tracking down the mysterious Shadow (Jung Woo-sung), the ringleader of a string of related bank robberies.

A remake of the hit Hong Kong smash Eye in the Sky, Cold Eyes is a roller coaster in a film. The story centers on an elite unit within the police that specializes in one thing: surveillance. They aren’t allowed to interact with any of the criminals they follow, but instead stay in the darkness without being seen.


This leads to some amazing cat and mouse sequences, in which not one person, but a whole team tails the criminal. We get to witness as each member of the team tags in and out, like some kind of crazy unbalanced pro-wrestling match. The camerawork slickly and effectively captures how each member takes turns and play their part in following the bad guys. Cold Eyes even doubles as a heist film, as we’re taken into the eyes of the villains as they not only do the jobs, but also plan them out.

The beautiful Han Hyo-joo plays rookie detective Ha Yoon-joo (whose name sounds too similar to her actress), code named Piglet (though she really wants to be called Reindeer). She makes an essential part of the team because of her ability to observe and remember the details of her surroundings.

One of the most interesting parts of Cold Eyes is the way it depicts Reindeer recalling information about a scene, as she puts together different puzzles from different parts of her memory to create a clearer picture for all of us to see.


Han Hyo-joo and Sol Kyung-gu lead a whole slew of characters in this action thriller. Combined with its fast pacing, the film has its share of scenes that will make your heart race.

Though, it’s definitely difficult to decide which gets your blood pumping more: the action sequences or the ones in which the team tracks the bad guys. The audience is there right beside the team, anxious as they are for fear of getting found out by the enemy.

A huge round of applause needs to go to Jung Woo-sung’s character Shadow, who is just one bad ass villain. He’s cool, intelligent, and clever – the perfect opponent for Piglet and her team. He leads a team of bank robbers, but doesn’t get his hands dirty when a job is being done. But when he does get down and dirty, he delivers with the same level of awesomeness worthy of a Jason Bourne film.


As a matter of fact, Jung Woo-sung and Han Hyo-joo are outstanding because they are cast in roles that they don’t typically do. Ha Yoon-joo is known for her roles in dramas, and in Cold Eyes she takes on the role as the cool heroine. Jung Woo-sung is usually seen as a good guy or romantic lead, but is cast as a cold-blooded killer. Seeing the actors in such roles can prove to be a huge thrill for their fans.

If there’s one thing that the film was lacking in, it’s the excess of supporting characters that don’t get real development. We get introduced to them, both in the heroes’ and villains’ side, by name, but towards the end they sort of disappear into the background to shine the spotlight on the A-listers.

With the exception of Squirrel, played by K-pop idol Lee Junho of 2PM, no other characters were fleshed out and given the screen time that they might have deserved.


But, that’s just an inescapable effect of having too many characters to begin with. It’s easy to overlook that flaw with just how cool of a story Cold Eyes is. It’s definitely a must-see for fans of action films. And hey, Jung Woo-sung and Han Hyo-joo aren’t too bad on the eyes either.

Make sure to pay attention at the ending scene. Simon Yam makes a cameo as a homage to his role in Eye in the Sky.

Watch this film…

…if you want to experience an exciting and gripping story, which will without a doubt pull you in and make you sweat as if you’re the one trying to catch the bad guy.

About the Author

Raymond Arcega


Follow Ray on Twitter and chat with a fellow cinema nut. He also tweets about tokusatsu, assorted geekery, and life and adventures in Japanland.