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Review: Nothing special about Korean crime comedy ‘Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead’

Kim Myung-min and Kim Ji-won in the movie “Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead.”
(WellGo USA)

Through three films now, director Kim Suk-yoon’s “Detective K” series — based on Kim Tak-hwan’s novels — have had at least one reliably entertaining component. The give-and-take between the brilliant but bumbling hero (played by Kim Myung-min) and his dim sidekick Seo-pil (Oh Dai-su) is consistently charming and funny, at once parodying and paying homage to the classic Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson dynamic.

“Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead” rises and falls based on how focused it is on Detective Kim Min and Seo-pil. When the sleuth and his buddy are puzzling over clues, all deadpan and subtly silly, the movie’s quite charming. But when it starts seriously digging into Korean history — and vampires — the picture loses some luster.

This time out, the 18th century gumshoe is investigating a series of mysterious murders with a possibly supernatural origin, and gradually realizes that the crimes may be connected to a lovely amnesiac played by Kim Ji-won. What starts as a breezy goof gets more serious and less fun in its second hour — which also packs in more pro forma action sequences.

The tongue-in-cheek “Detective K” wit is still evident in “Secret of the Living Dead,” most notably in a brief fantasy sequence that parodies the classic Korean revenge thriller “Oldboy.” And K and Seo-pil are always a hoot, as they take themselves too seriously yet still stumble onto the right path. It’s a pity such memorable characters are stuck in a story so middling.

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‘Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead’

In Korean with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

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Playing: CGV Cinema, Los Angeles; CGV Buena Park, Buena Park

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