THE BERLIN FILE (Ryoo Seung-wan). 120 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (February 15). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
It's rare that a spy movie stops to observe how ridiculously crowded the international espionage game has become. Moments like that are usually the first things to be yanked out in the editing room.
Ryoo Seung-wan's The Berlin File finds a neat way to couch its commentary in action, as in a scene where a meeting between North Korean deep-cover "ghost" Pyo (Ha Jung-woo) and a nefarious arms dealer explodes into a shootout between Mossad and South Korean strike teams, neither of which seems aware of the other's presence.
That's just the start of Pyo's problems. He escapes the firefight only to realize the international intelligence community now knows his face, so he's on the run with few contacts and fewer ideas.
The film is a labyrinth of switchbacks and double-crosses, with a tangled plot that makes Infernal Affairs look like a simple tale of good guys and bad guys. It sometimes feels like writer-director Ryoo (The City Of Violence) is complicating things for the sake of complicating them. An absolutely awful performance by John Keogh as a CIA agent ruins a couple of key scenes, but for the most part The Berlin File is solid commercial product.