Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Original Title: Salinui chueok
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Writer: Joon-ho Bong, Kwang-rim Kim, Sung Bo Shim
Genre: Crime, Drama
South Korea in 1986 under the military dictatorship: Two rural cops and a special detective from the capital investigate a series of brutal rape murder. Their crude measures become more desperate with each new corpse found. Based on a true case.
Kang-ho Song month, limited as it may be, rolls on with another fantastic entry in Memories of Murder. This film, for various reasons, took me forever to finally finish, at no fault whatsoever to the film itself. But I am so glad I finally finished it today!
Song is so great as he portrays a gradual transformation in Detective Park as the story unfolds. Very funny at times and very frustrated and confused at times, he goes from the corner-cutting clod to a more introspective, serious man as he becomes increasingly involved in this seemingly unsolvable murder. His character is played off nicely against the more serious Detective Seo Tae-Yoon, played by Sang-kyung Kim.
Detective Seo is brought in from Seoul when it becomes apparent to the local police that this serial murder case is beyond their scope. He sits on the sidelines, investigating quietly and seriously while Park and his hothead partner Detective Cho Yong-koo (Roe-ha Kim) torture suspects and plant evidence, trying to just get a confession and end the case easily. Seo claims that documents never lie, and where Park relies on his instinct to do his job, Seo pours over these documents for his. It's a straightforward approach that also begins to shift toward a more Park-like frame of mind as the film progresses.
Kim plays an understated role here, almost the opposite of Song's character, until he begins to bubble over as the case frustrates him as well.
Joon-ho Bong does a great job here in constructing this story for the screen. While an ordinary film would have gone the route of the detectives simply trying to solve a case, Bong here makes this story just as much about these two very different detectives morphing as this case becomes more and more frustrating. As with many of the Korean films I have seen from this time, Bong's gradual and delicate storytelling can seem to meander initially, but things compound upon themselves and the ending, while not explosive and decisive, is very impactful.
Is impactful a word? There are a few dropkicks in the film which are definitely impactful. Awesome!
Bong's characters are very interesting, and often shot very closeup in emotional moments. Lesser actors would definitely be exposed in scenes such as these. This along with some beautiful camerawork in outdoor locations make the film a true joy to watch. Cinematographer Hyung-ku Kim definitely deserves much credit for the lighting in some fantastic dark and rainy scenes.
I had similar feelings about JSA: Joint Security Area at first as well, as it starts feeling one way and turns into something quite different and quite remarkable.
I have to highly recommend this film for Kang-ho Song's and Sang-kyung Kim's performances, for it being beautifully shot and very well told. I think any imperfections I may have noticed can come down to a difference in American and Korean storytelling in cinema as well as my watching it unfortunately in a broken schedule.
Grade A filmmaking.
Score: 8.75 / 10