Hello. This is Nehal with a review for “The Accidental Detective” (2015) starring Kwon Sang-Woo of “71: Into the Fire” (2010), Sung Dong-Il of “Miss Granny” (2014), and Seo Young-Hee of Korean dramas such as “The Woman Who Married Three Times” (2013).
When asked whether one should watch “The Accidental Detective” (2015), I answer this question with the following question.
Do you enjoy American criminal procedurals?
More specifically, do you like USA Network’s detective shows, which are light-hearted, funny, and breezy such as “Monk” (2002~2009) or “White Collar” (2009–2014)?
The USA Network does show that follows the basic Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson dynamic but with a twist. Their shows also draw from the heritage of the 80s and 90s buddy cop movies and shows. Many would say, “of course! What is there not to like.” But those types of shows have been going out of fashion as they are seen to be old-timey even compared to procedural shows such as “CSI.”
Why am I talking about American detective shows when reviewing a Korean movie?
This is because “The Accidental Detective” (2015) is nothing more and nothing less than a solidly made 2-hour detective show pilot for the USA Network, which would be a hit… well, a run for USA Network’s standards.
I would watch the series!
The function of this movie is to bring together an unlikely duo and set up a working relationship so that we can watch them solve cases every week. It is your typical series pilot’s function. Do not expect much out of the box other than solid execution.
Let’s look at our unlikely duo!
One part of the duo, Dae-Man, is the wacky “smartest man in the room” character who is a stand-in for Sherlock Holmes. The twist above here is that Dae-Man is not the “smartest man in the room.” He is a civilian “detective” fanboy who has some deductive skills mostly developed by reading detective novels. The other part of the duo, Detective No, is a rough and tuff veteran detective who is being pushed out of primetime because of organizational politics.
In a normal situation, these two would never work a case together not only because Dae-Man is not a police officer but also because of Detective No views Dae-Man as a man-child wannabe lurking around the police station to insert himself into a juicy investigation. And he would be right. That is who Dae-Man is.
But one day, someone the two know gets framed for murder, and Dae-Man ends up forcing himself into the investigation against the ire of the detective. However, there is a ticking clock, and he has not many resources at his disposal at the moment.
Will our unlikely duo solve the case and save their acquaintance?
Of course, they will!
There would not be a series without it.
What Is the show?
How do I describe the tone of the show?
“The Accidental Detective” (2015) is not “White Collar” (2009–2014) because the tone of that show is posh and sophisticated. It is not “Monk” (2002~2009), because there was an individual dignity to both the character of Monk and the detectives in that show. The tone of “The Accidental Detective” (2015) is not that. There is no dignity anywhere near the characters. I would describe them as being more pathetic than anything else.
Thus, I would say that “The Accidental Detective” (2015) is more of a “Psych” (2006-2014). Shawn Spencer is Dae-Man. Carlton Jebediah “Lassie” Lassiter is Detective No if you combine him with Roger Murtaugh from the “Lethal Weapon” movies. Burton “Gus” Guster is… Dae-Man’s wife with a gender switch and ramping up the nagging by 11.
Have you seen “Psych” (2006-2014)?
“Psych” is about Shawn Spencer conning himself off as a Psychic to work as a consultant for the police. However, he is not a psychic but a person with “Super” deductive powers. He is very immature and somewhat sleazy, albeit a harmless kind of sleaze. In other words, a man-child version of Sherlock Holmes. Thus, the show has a robust pathetic vibe to it, which is rather amusing.
“The Accidental Detective” (2015) goes even harder with the pathetic. Not only does it reduce his deductive powers to just slightly above decent, but the movie gives Dae-Man a wife and two kids, one of which is an infant who is still far from potty training. Since he is a man-child, Dae-Man skips work all the time to lurk around the police station even though he cannot support his family. His wife played wonderfully by Seo Young-Hee is just an inch short from reaching her limits and exploding.
That is just pathetic
Unlike Shawn Spencer, who somehow always ends up on top or at least not on the bottom, Dae-Man is still at the bottom. The same can be said about Detective No, but I’ll not go into details since it might be a spoiler.
Does it work?
Following the basic formula does not guarantee a show will work. Not all USA Network’s detective shows do. In the case of “The Accidental Detective” (2015), the movie succeeds in the stuff a USA Network’s detective show needs to be a hit.
It needs to be light or at least not overly depressing.
The pacing should flow like a breeze without any disruptions.
The actors need to hit their comedic timing every single time.
The characters need to be likeable or at least not hateful.
And the characters need to have chemistry.
Chemistry is King!
“The Accidental Detective” (2015) checks all of these requirements. While it is not a joke-a-minute comedy, it is humorous throughout and has some solid physical gags. Not only do the main three actors hit their comedic marks, but they also have good chemistry. More accurately, Sung Dong-Il and Seo Young-Hee have excellent chemistry with Kwon Sang-Woo since the other two have no real scenes together.
Kwon Sang-Woo can hold this movie together!
What impressed me the most was Seo Young-Hee’s portrayal of the nagging wife. “The Accidental Detective” (2015) portrays more of a character’s domestic life than most detective movies and shows do. So, the wife is a significant character.
In the context of the genre, the nagging wife is a cliché at this point that tends to come off as irritating. However, Seo Young-Hee manages to make the nagging wife sympathetic without doing the 3rd act “I support you now” turn around, which tends to come off as forced. I have seen her in Korean dramas before, but this is the first time she pops out as an actress.
And is it just me, or is she not pretty hot?
What is Problematic?
You may have noticed that the quality of the mystery the protagonists are tasked with solving is not on the list of requirements to be successful.
This is not a mistake.
You do not need much in this area other than being passable. It would be better if you can toss in some interesting elements, but it is not required since detective shows are not really about the case they are trying to solve. Well, at least, not for the USA Network shows.
With “The Accidental Detective” (2015), the case itself is okay. It has some exciting twists and turns that are enough to keep the characters busy. At the same time, the situation is instead filled with clichés we have seen done over and over in many detectives shows over the years. The movie even repeats the line of “When a married woman is killed, it is always the husband!” which is as cliché as “The butler did it!”
In regards to the portrayal of the investigation, this is where the movie falters somewhat. I was kept in suspense through most of the film as I couldn’t put my finger on where this case was going. However, this was not because of the fact itself. Instead, the movie was not giving the audience enough information for us to work through the case ourselves. Thus, we were left waiting to say “WTF!” when the protagonist stops to explain the situation to us.
Was that the mystery?
I’ll just take your word for it…
Also, near the end, the case itself became the top and convoluted instead. However, the right parts of the movie are strong enough to carry the audience or at least me through the bad.
As a side note, it is a shame that the movie couldn’t be more creative. Considering that the main protagonist is a fanboy and crime blogger, there were opportunities to insert some meta-humor or insights, but the movie just passes it by. It is played more straight.
Would You Like the Movie?
We have come back to the original question I asked. I’ll ask it a little differently.
Do you like “Psych” (2006-2014)?
If so, you will enjoy the movie as it is a well-executed 2-hour detective show pilot for the USA Network. This is not a bad thing. Yes, the scale of the film is rather small, with all the budget showing on the screen. Yes, the action scenes are few and just adequate. Yes, the plot is very cliché.
But that is the nature of a show like “Psych” (2006-2014). If the pathetic but ultimately charming characters, the character chemistry, and the funny humour cannot make you overlook the bad stuff, “Psych” (2006-2014) and “The Accidental Detective” (2015) are not for you. If you can, at the minimum, “The Accidental Detective” (2015) will be a fun rental. It is light, but I enjoyed my time in the theatre, and I think most of the audience felt the same.
I give “The Accidental Detective” (2015) a B!
Score: B or 6.75/10