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Memories of Murder (KOREA 2003)

Director : Joon-ho Bong
Cast :  Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, Roe-ha Kim, Jae-ho Song, Hie-bong Byeon, Seo-hie Ko and No-shik Park.

Synopsis :
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 rude measures become more desperate with each new corpse found. Based on a true case.

Review
by Edward Tang

Memories of Murder is very much different from this round of things, the killer is never seen and although he is a psycho, his killings are not only disgusting, but neat. There truly isn’t a corpse that is seen all sliced up and shit to gain shock value, they actually focus on the storytelling element. Even though there isn’t an “ending” to this noise, the “whodunit” factor always comes into play. Beautifully shot, from long fields to dark nights filled with blood and rain. A superb cast that includes some great performances, mostly from the likes of Kang-ho Song (JSA).

I’m not really sure of the history of such, but I’ll assume that most of it is true. As I saw this film, I had no idea that the killer was never found, which made it better for me (But the ending pissed me off) because the search was very entertaining. From each suspect, they all look like they could do it, but most of their knowledge came from the harsh tactics thrown out by the police officers. The whole town knew that these guys were torturing witnesses and making them confess to crimes they had nothing to do with. But I also enjoyed the duel nature, as one of the suspects does describe everything in detail, but is later thrown away because of little evidence. Eventually the cops realize he was there the night one of the girls was murdered, but in this instance, it’s too late. The suspect is destroyed by a train. I felt like it was a little punishment from a higher power, these guys beat the hell out of this guy and never came to this conclusion. Then there’s a scene where the killer jumps out of nowhere and takes down a girl, in probably the creepiest way possible. She’s a whistling a tune, and she stops to hear the tune whistled back at her. Nasty.

From each character on down, we are continuously thrown a different person whom committed the crime. We focus on these characters, from uncanny truths about each man. For instance, one of the suspects requests a song every rainy night. It just so happens that the killings happen every single time this song is played. That was pure genius in my opinion, because wouldn’t you think that would be a way that most serial killers are caught? But this is just another dead end, as they realize this certain suspect’s DNA doesn’t match. Even though we are void of a conclusion, the director shows his skill and makes it like we might just have one. Speaking of which, his style was clearly different from more famous serial killer movies. Joon-ho Bong, whom has made four films, clearly focuses on more storied aspects, such as the detective’s personal life and more instances where we are exploring the mostly idiotic tactics that the officers use.

There isn’t much of anything that is gory. The murder-rape scenes are quick and to the point, more of a fade-out when the guy is just about to start his business. And as you would have known, there isn’t any body that is horribly deformed or anything. The director counts on the story to take you in, rather than grossing you out to the pure idiocy that excites fans of this genre. The characters were also a mention, all of them had different elements to the hunt, where as one wouldn’t hesitate to beat the shit out of them, the other was more balanced and never really raised a finger. But as we went on, the characters seemed to be more like each other than anything, using different tactics then before and just becoming different people. The score is done excellently, it really captures the mood of such story.

Kang-ho Song is excellent as he is in most of the shit he is in. His emotional take with his odd approach to finding the truth is a great work. I must admit, this guy kind of seemed desperate, as he would basically drop kick a guy he thought was a rapist. But his character also is a human, which is shown from his various activities from his meetings with his wife. His character seems to be the basis of this film, and after it was all set and done, he just couldn’t take the life anymore and decided to move on with it. His partner from Seoul more or less stays in the background for most of the film, a pretty smart guy, but doesn’t say much. But his breakdown at the end of the film, which had him pointing a gun at one of the suspects, even though he knew that it wasn’t the guy, showed that the guy was plain fed up with everything. The performances for the most part made the film better, you had a good cast of characters, and I must praise all the men who played the suspects. All of them were creepy and you wouldn’t think twice if they were in-fact the killer.

Which leaves me with the final scenes. The second time I saw them, I liked them better. But the first time had me pissed off because I was expecting something to happen (notice my child-like need for some EXPLOSIONS). But I liked the way it ended, a little creepy just like the film. But just like most serial killers, the little girl described him as normal. The film ends with a nice shot of the landscape and we are taken in by the music once more. What was interesting about this film was the fact that the killer wasn’t caught. Surely you couldn’t do a serial killer film where the killer simply isn’t found? Well I have been proved wrong a few times and this is another.

“Memories of Murder” is a beautiful film, from the direction all the way to the believable performances. There’s even a tone at some humorous parts which I grabbed immediately. You can’t go wrong with this film, and hopefully as I did, you’ll find that it surpasses most serial killer flicks and falls into a category of it’s own. A film that still has me buzzing two hours after I watched it, can’t be missed by those who call themselves movie fans.

Rating
Plot : 4/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The chasing sequence

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Memories of Murder

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