‘Innocent Blood’: Detective plotline excels, but still clings to stereotypes

Journalism student Ting Ting Chu attended the Seattle Asian American Film Festival earlier this month. Below is a film review that she wrote for the film “Innocent Blood”:

Searching “best detective movies” online probably brings you a list of films featuring white male characters as smart and charming sleuths. On the last day of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, audiences screened “Innocent Blood,” an extraordinary story that features an Asian man as the legendary detective.

When the story opens, James Park, played by Jun-Seong Kim, is a normal, everyday professor. But everything changes one day when Cody, his son, is kidnapped. Park, a retired legendary undercover detective, has no choice but to face his dark past in order to save his son.

C.S. Lee as the kidnapper

“Innocent Blood” C.S. Lee as the kidnapper. Photo from Striped Entertainment.

Kim, unfortunately, fails to bring the tension that most detective movies need, while the kidnapper, played by C.S. Lee, counters that as a real psychopath. In one tense scene, the kidnapper disguises himself as a courier in order to deliver a threatening DVD to Park and his wife, Susan. He asks for water and steps into the house silently to standing right behind Susan while she is pouring. It’s haunting.

Susan Park in Innocent Blood

Susan Park, a tough and busy working mother in “Innocent Blood.” Photo from Striped Entertainment.

Susan, played by Alexandra Chun, touches audiences’ hearts. She lets them actually feel a mother’s love for her son. It’s also stereotype-breaking to see an Asian woman being a tough, working mother instead of stay-at-home mom in the western film industry.

Lance Lim, playing a young Cody Park, gives the film a tense atmosphere with just a few lines, in one scene weeping about how he wants to go home.

Lance Lim, playing Cody Park

Lance Lim, playing Cody Park, surprises audiences with his mature performance in “Innocent Blood.” Photo from Striped Entertainment.

Although these Asian American actors deliver shining performances, director Sun W. Kim said during a post-screening session that he wants audiences to forget about the characters’ ethnicity to focus on the story itself.

Asian characters in this film are comparatively smarter than others. James is the retired legendary detective that everyone admires, the kidnapper is the smarter criminal, and Susan is the clever woman who helps her husband deal with the police.

Other Asian characters remain the same as they normally do in most western movies. They have low-income jobs and are even involved in illegal deals, human trafficking, and murders.

Although surprisingly, there are only two female characters with spoken lines throughout the 101-minute-long movie.

“It might be a reflection of [reality],” said Kim. “But honestly I tried to stay away from that, even though [it’s] mostly Asian cast.  But in the middle of the movie I really want people to forget that it has anything to do with Asians because I don’t live my life that way.”

All these characters may still challenge audiences’ thoughts. It’s hard to tell if they are reflections of reality or just typical stereotypes that exist in most minds.

“Innocent Blood” is produced and directed by a group of amateur filmmakers. To some people, it would seem like another common detective movie in the American film industry if James Park weren’t an Asian. But no matter, one thing’s for sure: It’s an outstanding amateur detective movie that successfully embraces love and humanity.

A video movie review by Chu: https://vimeo.com/87330659