Korea Makes The Cool Movies...MEMORIES OF MURDER

By Humby

MEMORIES OF MURDER is yet another in the growing list of great Korean films. This is a story of a serial killer in a small town outside of Seoul. A man kills young attractive women when it rains and there seems to be a link to a song that plays on the radio. A pair of detectives track down this murderer.
This might not sound much different than what you have seen a hundred times before, but it is. Joon-ho Bong (director/co-writer) brings freshness to the stale story of a serial killer. He doesn’t create the “perfect” killer, or have him kill in unique ways, but he has two really interesting people in the detectives that are tracking down this hunter of women.
Detective Park (Kang-ho Song from SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE) is a good man and in his mind, he’s a great detective, able to spot the guilt in a man simply by looking in his eyes. It is a gift. A gift, unfortunately, he really does not possess. In actuality, he is a terrible detective. Once convinced of a suspect’s guilt, he will beat them until they confess, plant evidence (amateurishly), and do this with a clear conscious. He is sure of their guilt and will do what ever is necessary to ensure their conviction. But, with this killer, he is going to need more help…
This help comes in the form of Detective Seo (Sang-kyung Kim), a by the book detective from Seoul. As Detective Seo often says, “Documents never lie.” He is a smart man, guided by the clues and the facts and is good at what he does. He is the opposite of Detective Park. Disgusted by the methods of the small town police, he takes over the investigation, but has trouble generating results.

After a series of lucky breaks, they are led to a man who must be the killer… or is he?
MEMORIES OF MURDER is a great look at what drives a person and what is right and wrong. Where is the line and when (if at all) is it okay to cross it? The character of Park was irritating for the first potion of the movie and I almost gave up on the film. Thankfully, I stuck it out. He is a terrible cop, bumbling through crime scenes as if his only training was from watching bad crime movies.

I say he beats people until they confess, and you probably think that he’s a bad man, but think about it. If you were sure that a person was a killer and thought he was going to get away with it, what would you do? Would you let the rules and ethics get in the way and risk the chance of letting a murderer free to kill again? The answer seems simple, but this movie gets into what price it takes on a person to make the “right” choice. There is no easy answer. There is no right choice.
The look of MEMORIES OF MURDER is absolutely beautiful. There is a stark contrast and colors that I find common with most of the Korean films that are emerging. This, along with LADY VENGEANCE, and A BITTERSWEET LIFE are three of the best shot films out there. There is a mood that can be compared to great movies like SE7EN and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The rain is threatening and ominous. We know, as do the detectives, rain equals death in this small town. There is a constant sense of urgency. The mood is set up so that in order to create tension, all we need to see is a drop of water falling from the sky. Once it takes hold of you, the film never lets go and it will stay with you for days after. I strongly recommend renting this film.


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