There have been a lot of films done in the “Lethal Weapon” style of moviemaking, many of them by imitators right here in the United States , but Americans rarely get the chance to see how it’s done in the rest of the world. Thanks to import video merchants, American viewers can see Korea ‘s version of the veteran cop/cocky rookie/female cop/married cop formula. It’s a nifty idea that gets the blood pumping, but unfortunately Korea ‘s “Never to Lose” doesn’t show viewers anything they haven’t seen before. Yet, despite sticking to the formula at almost every turn, the film is undeniably and vastly entertaining.
“Never to Lose” concerns the men of Homicide Unit 3, who are in dire straits at the moment. While Unit 3′s cops are full of ambition and talent, they never seem to crack a case. The team is comprised of Detective Koh, a 15 year veteran, Detective Kim (Min-jun Kim), a rookie eager to make a name for himself, Detective Koh, a married man who spends more time on the job than with his wife, and Detective Ryung ( Sang-mi Nam ), who can’t get taken seriously by her peers because she’s a woman. While at a party with his girlfriend, Kim happens upon information about a drug deal that could get the team the respect they’ve been looking for. But what the team gets into turns out to be not just a big drug bust, but a case that makes Homicide Unit 3 the target of the largest drug lord in Korea .
One of “Never to Lose’s” biggest asset is its likeable cast. Heo Joon-ho turns in a good performance as Detective Koh, a cop who’s been on the force for a decade and a half, and who is the father figure of the group. Kim Min Joon does a comparable job as the neophyte of the team, wet behind the ears but a bundle of eagerness. Jang Hang-seen is good as the long suffering married man, whose biggest problem isn’t the criminals, but rather the nagging wife back home. As the lone female of the group, Nam Sing Mi is easy on the eyes.
If there’s one thing director San Hee-chang doesn’t want you to be, it’s bored. Apparently a graduate of the Renny Harlin School of Filmmaking, San doesn’t skimp on the adrenaline, and his action scenes are imaginative and well executed, making them easily the highlight of “Never to Lose”. The film’s running time clocks in at almost two hours, but the film never feels that long. The movie’s swift pace is helped by Ko Im-pyo’s skillful editing, which lets the film flow smoothly onscreen. The script by Ki Seung-te allows for a lot of action and snappy dialogue, but as mentioned, isn’t particularly original. It duplicates the formula with aplomb, but never really adds anything new to it.
Despite being derivative of many films you’ve probably seen before numerous times, “Never to Lose” is nevertheless a worthwhile import and fine addition to any action fan’s movie collection. Substituting for originality is an awfully good time and major bang for the buck. It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and “Never to Lose” more than capably honors the action genre that it takes obvious inspiration from.
KD Media presents “Never to Lose” on DVD in a beautifully transferred anamorphic widescreen presentation. The picture is sharp and clear, with crisp bright colors and aspect ratio of 1:85:1. The Dolby digital sound will bring a smile to any audiophile’s face, and is especially nice in stereo surround sound.
Hee-chang Son (director) / Seung-tae Ki (screenplay)
CAST: Jun-ho Heo …. Mun Bong-soo
Hang-Seon Jang …. Yuk Chul-gu
Min-jun Kim …. Kim Hong-joo
Tae-wook Kim …. Oh Jae-chul
Sang-mi Nam …. Lee Hye-ryung