This beautiful, intelligent and well-crafted murder mystery by director Bong Joon-ho gives us insight into South Korea’s true unsolved serial-killer case. Yet , the film doesn’t ask you to figure out who the killer is, but more interestingly, why was the case never solved.
The film begins in the year 1986 with Inspector Park Du-man (Song Kang-ho) investigating the crime scene of a gruesome murder. The body of a woman was found in a gorgeous wheat field in Hwaseong; she had been raped and choked to death with one of her own stockings. This is just the first of many similar murders that continued up until 1991.
Park is the film’s bad cop — the kind of guy who wants to use his fists instead of his brains. Things start to get a bit more tense when Inspector Seo Tae-yun, a detective from a different division, volunteers to assist Park in the case. He’s the good cop — thoughtful, educated and dismissive of Park’s aggressive approach to the case.
Park becomes obsessed with the case, and even tries tricking a mentally retarded boy, who used to follow around one of the victims, to confess. He steals the boy’s shoe, goes to the crime scene, makes a footprint on the ground, shows it to the boy, and tries to get him to admit that he did it. They eventually learn the boy wouldn’t physically be able to conduct the murder with such a mental handicap. The boy is only the first of many different suspects the detectives pursue.
As the killings keep happening, certain clues start becoming clear: the murderer only kills women; they are always wearing red; he only kills when it rains; he requests the same song on the radio before the killings.
Every time Seo and Park get close to solving the case, their plan backfires and not only does the evidence they obtained end up being useless, but their failure becomes an embarrassment to the police force. The two men start going crazy with frustration and anger; so much that they finally start crossing the line as law enforcers, doing desperate and sometimes illegal acts to catch the criminal.
The acting in the film is very impressive, while the writing proves to be fresh and stimulating. Two wonderful actors play the protagonists and the script is very clever and original, full of witty dialogue and sharp one-liners. As the characters advance into the case, the story starts forming a deeper underlying meaning. We start noticing that it isn’t the killer that’s outsmarting the cops, but rather their own disorganization and lack of professionalism.
Through our journey with these two detectives, director Boon Joon-ho does a marvelous job of setting specific tones for each scene. Sometimes we are gripped with masterful high tension and suspense; other times we are told to relax and observe the cinematography, one of the film’s greater achievements. From beautiful landscapes to gloomy alleys, Joon-ho makes sure the shots that are meant to be seen are always visible.
The cast and crew interviews feature actors Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung and director Boon Joon-ho. The actors don’t really have much to say, nothing too interesting, anyway. On the other hand, listening to director Boon Joon-ho talk about the case is very enlightening. He obviously did a substantial amount of research for the project and insists that the investigations need to continue, even to this day.
The deleted scenes come with your choice of director’s commentary, on or off. Seven scenes in total; they all help in the further development of the characters, but aren’t essential plot points or the case.
Picture and Sound
The picture is an excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. There are a few occasional print flecks, but other than that, there is a good level of detail. The film is presented with a DTS 6.1 ES surround mix that matches well, but unless you want everyone talking like it’s a Godzilla movie, then turn off the ridiculous dubbed voices and go for subtitles.
Many delightful surprises and intense situations make this film a real pleasure to watch. The DVD features aren’t too spectacular, but with a thriller like this, who needs ‘em? Beautiful cinematography and acting surround the horrific crimes that take place; if you’re keen on American films like Se7en or Silence of the Lambs, I suggest you try this film out — it won’t disappoint any fan looking for mystery and suspense.