Memories of Murder Reviews
FRESH : 60%
Crime 60% Drama 10% Mystery 30%
After seeing Memories of Murder, I think I have to reconsider my No.1 Bong Joon-Ho film. My no.1 favourite Bong Joon-Ho film has always been The Host. But seems like there is a new contender for the No.1 spot.
At times it would seem like reading an old novel and at times it would seem like watching a nemesis film. There are many flavors which work because of the terrific acting jobs everyone has done. Every character is a perfect fit. Both of the lead cops are opposite to each other and then the shift in their personality to take each other's place. The suspense is very strongly kept through out the movie and there is a ground breaking background score to lift it to new heights. The chase seen from the woods into the village and then the factory site is very thrilling. Another scene involving the train accident is also placed right.
There would not be any department or field this movie could be less then great at.
Kang-ho Song, is the best thing in the movie. His portrayal of an aggressive cop is top notch. He brings all the humor and then the intensity in the movie. Sang-kyung Kim, also gave wonderful performance. A cop with less known background which is civilized and honest to his job and then loses his control over the event.
A movie which will be on your favorite lift forever.
Song Kang-Ho also deserves special mention for his great work!
This movie is a prime example of that.
Sarinui chueok, or Memories of Murder for the rest of the world, is not just a police-procedural movie, okay? It's not your typical murder-mystery thriller. This movie is all about characters, human characters, all-too human. This movie will show you, in a superb manner, the complexity of the human being.
That's what makes this movie so complex: it deals with the nature of human beings against something they do not understand, it takes characters to places where they'll lose their minds; it will strip its characters from their pragmatic ego's, from their self-centered personas. It will show humans at the turn of their most obscure side. It will show you what happens when humans step into the Dark Side of the Moon.
How? Well, the answer is simple. Take a South Korean lazy-corrupt officer (detective Park) along his even more lazy-corrupt-and-aggressive partner (detective Cho) to investigate the most hideous serial killer of that time (1980s) in a very small town. Let them show you their sleazy ways. Let them show you their incompetence when it comes to work, serious work that is: you're investigating a series of murders!
These men will torture suspects just for the simple reason that "they heard he committed the murders", that's how bad they can be.
Let's take it even further, just to show how far their corruptness can go: they will plant evidence just so they can convict a suspect of a crime, even if that suspect is mentally disabled.
These two guys are just a complete mess when it comes to working. However they think their crooked ways are the right ones. Detective Park usually says: "I can simply look at a man's eyes and find out if he's guilty or no", that's he's way of thinking, you get the idea now?
So we have two incompetent-corrupt officers of the law. Now bring an outsider (detective Seo), an officer straight from the capital and a serious man about his work - because they investigate murders, it has to be very serious work. This man will show them his pragmatic ways of working: "documents never lie" he would normally say when referring to the evidence. This man does not torture suspects; he will only follow the evidence. This man knows his stuff.
What happens when these opposing forces meet? A complete mess is what happens, to say the least. Detective Seo will slowly show these two lazy-asses how to run an investigation, and despite his efforts to show how scientific procedures can help you bring down a serial killer, these two dirt-bags will try to show this pragmatic detective how their ways are the right ones, how esoteric methods can beat science, how rumors are more valid then congruent pieces of evidence, how, just for the fact that South Korea is a small country, the methods used by other countries, such as the U.S., won't work in that country: "Korea is of the size of my penis, that's why we investigate with our feet, because you can walk the whole country in day" detective Park said to detective Seo.
So we have two characters that take major roles: detective Park and detective Seo, and they make a great contrast for the plot.
Now we have to talk about the one person who will bring this to a nice triangle: the murderer; who is he? It doesn't matter, he is just a McGuffin used to let characters develop their worst sides or their better sides - again this movie is just about characters, about the way humans behave under extreme circumstances. Still we get to spend a lot of time with all the suspects and their different personalities.
So all you have to concentrate on is what the main characters do or say throughout the movie since everything will be vital for the plot.
You get to enjoy the moments where you see detective Park spend time with his wife: we get moments intimacy, moments where they talk and he shows some jealousy because his wife - a nurse - gets requested the most by patients at the hospital, and we get to see where most of detective Park's not-so-clever-ideas come from, ideas such as "going with a psychic" to find out who the murderer is.
The characters in the story are just as real and perfect as they can get, and the serial killer story hits the jackpot of story-telling. So what about the directing of the movie? Admirable is the adjective I'll use to answer. You can't really expect much from director Bong's sophomore attempt at filmmaking with a near-broke studio, right? Wrong. Director Bong made wonderful use of camera work; take one of the first scenes of the movie: we get a nice long shot that shows us what mess of a crime scene the detectives had due to their incompetence and terrible communication.
We get some beautiful takes of the landscapes with great natural lighting, and thanks to the opportunistic weather at the time of filming, we get some wonderful takes that really captured the depressed feeling that director Bong wanted to project to the audience.
The movie itself has a great sense of humor at the beginning, since the movie itself satirizes the South Korean system, all the way from the press, police force, political views, and the way we sometimes tend to think. But near the end of the movie we start to feel a brilliant change of humor, from a witty sense of humor, to a very serious thriller, we start to see the characters get more serious in the plot; we start to feel the tension of the plot as it reaches its brilliant ending.
This way of making the seriousness of the plot change makes the movie all the more better: you get moments of laughs and you get moments of tension.
This change, however, does not only happen in the plot, it also happens to the characters - the two main characters - take detective Park for instance: corrupt, incompetent, lazy, and stupid at times, turns out by the end, in a beautifully executed scene (train track scene), we get to see him coming clean and admitting that he does not know who can be guilty of a crime by just simply looking at their eyes.
Detective Seo, the pragmatic, flat-footed detective, on the other hand, starts to succumb to the nasty ways of detective Park: he starts to lose his nerve and even slaps the poor mentally disabled suspect, who happens to know the identity of the killer, in an attempt to get the kids testimony for evidence. It doesn't end well for the mentally disabled kid... We also see detective Seo beat the living hell out of the main suspect just because he is so sure he's the killer, but then the evidence (the documents) shows him that he is not the killer; all this will just push detective Seo to the edge of madness. Now all this is shown in that one masterful/powerful scene along with detective Park's moment of clarity: one sees the light, the other sees the darkness; talk about good writing and good directing.
The movie's ending is just sublime, it will leave you make you think more about the whole movie... gives me the chills just by thinking of that last close shot at detective Park's look, you can really feel him all the way to the end of that scene.
The audacity for directing, writing, and cinematography in this movie is just fabulous, one couldn't ask for more.
This movie was hailed by Tarantino in one of his interviews as one of the most interesting and complex movie he had ever seen, and damn right it is!
This movie was made for all type of audiences, it's fun, interesting, intriguing, and cathartic. You will be missing out on one of the best movies of modern times.
Fun fact: one of the studios that produced the movie: Sidus, was near bankruptcy when the movie was filmed, and due to the movie's unexpected success the studio went back on track and is now a major studio in South Korea.