Friday, July 12, 2013

The momentum killer and complete mess of a film: Secretly Greatly (2013) at the New York Asian Film Festival 2013 (revised)

(This was originally written after a long day at the salt mines and a long trip home-I took a later train than I hoped. I've revised it slightly but at the same time its a bit jagged, so please read it with my tired state in mind.)

First up I want to say that it was James Corbe who did the killer intro over the weekend with the cue cards. If you're reading this-Sir- that was awesome, I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow night...

Now that that is out of the way, I want to move on to the rest of the evening. This will be brief since its too late to wax in anyway shape or form about tonight's movie. I'd rather talk about the dinner I had at Liam's down by South Street Seaport with Randi or recount the discussion I had with Alec from Flixist about a wide ranging number of films instead of talking about mess that is SECRETLY GREATLY.

I'm sorry this is going to be short but the film started late (never mind the giveaways and the director intro), so the film ended after 11 so I had to book once the end credits started so I missed the Q&A.

SECRETLY GREATLY is described as a comedy. Yea well it is for about half it's running time then it turns into a dark action film that belongs somewhere else but not grafted onto the comedy of the first half.

The plot has several North Korean spies living under deep cover in a small backwater town. They are part of a super secret unit, that for reasons that are never rationally explained ordered to kill themselves. There is also the last minute addition of something to do with an evil professor trying to prove something that made no sense. It all ends in violence and blood shed with lots of dead people.

While well made and well acted the script is a mess. I mean a real mess. The opening comedy of one of the agents acting as a village fool does not go with the action sequences that are sprinkled through the film, nor does it work with the final hour or so of bleak black violence where he is a sullen killing machine. While the final segment is better than the rest of the film, it's damaged heavily by the comedy and lack of a reasoned run up.

Actually the real damage is done by the scripts throwing out what I can only guess is all of the material concerning most of the character development, the mission the guys are on, what the bad guys are up to and anything resembling a real plot. No wait,there is no plot, rather things happen that kind of go together to form an outline but most of it is never explained (like the rules for playing a fool). Mostly it seems like they had these jokes, and they had this kick ass ending but no way to get them together in under two hours so they simply sewed the start of the story to the end and went with that. In all seriousness if you held a gun to my head and asked me to explain how the plot moves from comedy to drama or you'd kill me, I couldn't tell you.

Worst of all since they ignore most of the characters other than the main trio, the ending has no emotion to it. You don't care, and a final tear filled moment (the writing behind the picture) is so badly placed as to make it appear that one dead character could be alive simply because it takes place in a place we've never been before...

When the credits rolled people seemed to flee. No idea if it was the film or the lateness of the hour, but people seemed to be leaving in droves.

My first thought as I headed to the subway with Alec was, thank god I don't travel with my laptop because I would have to do a great deal of explaining about what this review would have been.

My second thought was the film was so disappointing and messy I wanted to stop going to the festival. Honestly, the film is such a mess that now I'm so afraid that I'm going to end up with another film like this tomorrow night that I briefly was considering not going to the next round of films. Of course I will go, Mondocurry and several other friends will be attending which means that there will be good talk if nothing else, but I was considering bailing on the Japan Society.

On the downtown subway platform I ran into the lovely Lee who pondered if anyone liked the film as a whole. Yes, some jokes were good, yes some moments worked but for her it was a mess...and she then detailed with laser like precision everything that made no sense in the story (it was worse than I thought). She had only gotten part way through the film when I said my good bye.

Conversation and dinner aside this was a wasted trip into the city.

I'll be posting pictures from the last time at Walter Reade for this years fest over the weekend. Until then I'm heading to bed. Perhaps before Mondo who was at both Walter Reade and The Japan Society today.


  1. I would like to say I oppose your negative review to "Secretly Greatly". I watched the movie last night at The Korean Festival Movie series in honor of the director who was killed this past January 2013. I enjoyed watching this movie so much and everyone in the movie theater did get emotional with the end of the movie. This is one reason why I don't like reading reviews from critics in regards to movies without watching them myself. Secretly Greatly was a well done movie, and it did explain the reason why these soldiers were hiding. Yes, I agree some explanation of the secret army, & killings could have been explained a little more. However if we have studied History we should know how politics, and armies are run in the third world countries. This movie was mainly focused on the three main characters. I don't agree with your negative review. I truly Enjoyed watching this movie and would recommend watching it again. Thank you!

  2. Yo dawg you must be trippin. The movie was actually pretty good.

  3. The movie was really good! It wasn't as bad as what you mention. I felt like the character really acted their roles well.

    For example, we have Hyun-Woo acting as a schoolboy here. The way this character was portrayed was really good! He was suppose to be all 'worshiping the captain' character and was the kind who followed orders. I was really glued to that character. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with this movie!

  4. I rate this movie 8/10.