Movie Review – Phantom Detective (2016)

Otherwise known as Detective Hong Gil-dong: Disappeared Village, this movie actually has no relation whatsoever to Hong Gil-dong the well known folklore character, nor was there any magic involved. Lee Je-hoon stars as the titular detective, who has a reputation of finding any missing person within an hour of being first informed. The movie begins with Gil-dong having trouble tracking down a very elusive old man (Park Geun-hyung), with whom he has a personal grudge against as well.


When Gil-dong finally managed to find out the location of Old Man, the latter was kidnapped just moments before Gil-dong arrived, and Gil-dong ended up grudgingly being a sitter for Old Man’s two young grand-daughters. While the older girl Dong-yi was more agreeable to Gil-dong’s commands, the younger Mal-soon has far more questions and suspicions about Gil-dong finding their Gramps. Her curiosity almost got them into trouble, but precisely because of her quick thinking she also helped them get out of some sticky situations.


Gil-dong eventually found out that he’s fighting against a larger force than he can deal with, and he had to seek help from his headquarters, a secret organization run by President Hwang (Go Ara), whose late father saved and brought up Gil-dong. The organization’s goal is to rid the country of villains listed by President Hwang’s father, and Gil-dong finds himself fighting The Big Bad Kang Sung-il (Kim Sung-kyun), who turns out to be a friend (?) from Gil-dong’s childhood. Sung-il grew up to be a cold-blooded murderer and Gil-dong was beaten up really badly by him each time they crossed path.


The movie was ambiguous in the beginning (or perhaps I wasn’t paying close attention), and the greyscale tone added to the ambiguity. It did live up to its tagline of being a comic book noir action (it feels like watching a comic coming to life), and I thought the cinematography reminded me of A Werewolf Boy. I was right about it because it was the same director behind Phantom Detective. Lee Je-hoon was fantastic (as usual) as Hong Gil-dong, while Kim Sung-kyun is scary here as The Big Bad, a huge difference from his bumbling characters in Reply 1994 or Reply 1988. The two little girls had more screentime than Go Ara here, which made me feel like she’s more of a special appearance. Not a bad movie all in all, with lots of action, comedy (between Gil-dong and the girls), and of course there must also have some complicated history behind all our characters. Worth the 2 hours spent.

8 thoughts on “Movie Review – Phantom Detective (2016)

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  1. Juz watched this. Hilarious. The 2 kiddos are like reality checks for Gil dong. Whenever he does the cool, noir detective thingy you have that little tot piping up and questioning him.

      1. ya. but i still find hilarious when Gil-dong tries to look suave, dark and charming and all, then suddenly this tiny voice pipes out from below him..”ahjusshi, you are LYING AGAIN”.

  2. Hello everyone,
    I really want to watch Detective Hong Gil Dong. Can anyone please help me with a link? English sub, if possible. I can’t find it anywhere. Thank you!

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