Two Cops 3 (1998) Movie Review

“Two Cops 3”, as the title indicates, is the third installment in a popular series that focuses on two cops as they fight crime side by side. Part 3 has strayed from the previous two by partnering a male chauvinistic cop (Bo-sung Kim) up with a female detective (Min-jung Kweon).

As Choi, the female cop, attempts to prove herself to her partner (who has declared that she won’t last more than 3 days, tops), there’s also the matter of the other Detectives (all males, of course) showing her less respect than they would road kill. What’s more, the bad guys (with emphasis on “guys”) don’t seem to be too afraid of her, and one rapist who she attempts to arrest actually tries to rape her! Oh, and Choi is a by-the-books sort of gal, which makes her even less attractive to the action movie enthuse that is her partner, Lee.

The filmmakers are holding up a very real mirror to current South Korea, where males are still dominant in every avenue, and women are still secondary citizens, at best. South Korea is not alone, as most Asian countries still practice a heavily (and quite openly) patriarchal society in all aspects of life. American women complain about not being able to penetrate the infamous Glass Ceiling, but the majority of Korean women (like many of her Asian colleagues) can’t even see that Glass Ceiling. (Don’t misconstrue that last statement to mean that I approve of discrimination based on any foundation at any level.)

Take for example the film’s treatment of the Choi character. While all the female jokes and lack of respect for anything with breasts are way over exaggerated in the name of comedy, there is a very real sense of mean-spiritedness to them that I found more than just a little disturbing. Besides the fact that there is almost no comedy to be had from these sequences (much to the filmmaker’s chagrin, I would imagine), there is such an underlying hostility toward Choi that borders on physical assault.

At the same time that the film attempts to put a spotlight on the unfairness of being a woman in male-dominated South Korea, it doesn’t keep director Sang-jin Kim from exploiting Choi, the woman, at every opportunity. On more than one occasion Choi is seen completely naked, and every single frame reeks of sheer exploitation and without purpose. “Two Cops 3” is supposed to be a movie about a female who proves herself to be just as capable as her male counterparts, but the film completely undermines itself with its own exploitation.

Besides the fimmakers’ inability to distinguish their own personal bias with their material (and thus encouraging the same sort of behavior they are supposedly mocking onscreen), the movie is also an abysmal crime film. What passes for Detective work involves the cops confronting villains with weapons drawn, only to discard the weapons and duke it out. What is the purpose of drawing one’s weapon if the scene was just going to end up with fisticuffs anyway? Why even have weapons at all?

The film does work when it goes for straight comedy. A group of scenes involving a crime kingpin as he works to bring guns into South Korea is a riot. The kingpin, you see, is not the smartest bulb in the bunch (not only does he not know what IMF stands for, but when it’s explained to him he still doesn’t get it), and makes some very funny comments. For instance, the kingpin is convinced that if he brings enough guns into the country and arms every criminal and citizen out there, he is actually helping to resurrect the (then) fledging South Korean economy! How he comes to this conclusion is quite inspirational as well.

“Two Cops 3” is a tale of two movies, and I believe the more interesting film is the one taking place offscreen. In this film, you have a group of men who makes the brave choice to tackle the subject of female subjugation in South Korea, but at the same time they’re oblivious to the fact that they are practicing it. The phrase “do as I say, not as I do,” comes to mind here…

Sang-Jin Kim (director)
CAST: Bo-sung Kim …. Inspector Lee
Min-jung Kweon …. Inspector Choi

Buy Two Cops 3 on DVD