|MEMORIES OF MURDER (SALINUI CHECK) (director/writer: Bong Joon-Ho; screenwriter: based on a story by Kim Gwang-rim; cinematographer: Kim Hyung-Ku; editor: Kim Sun-min; music: Iwashiro Taro; cast: Song Kang-Ho (Detective Park Doo-Man), Kim Sang-Kyung (Detective Seo Tae-Yoon), Byun Hee-bong (Sgt. Koo Hee-bong), Song Jae-ho (Sgt. Shin Dong-chul), Kim Rwe-ha (Detective Cho Yong-koo), Koh Seo-hee (Officer Kwon Kwi-ok), Jeon Mi-seon (Kwok Seol-yung), No-shik Park (Baek, Kwang-ho--retarded suspect), Hae-il Park (Park, Hyeon-gyu); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kim Moo-ryung; Palm Pictures; 2003-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)|
by Dennis Schwartz
Bong Joon-Ho ("Barking Dogs Never Bark")
bases his superb police procedural film on
a story by Kim Gwang-rim. The film fictionalizes a
real incident in Korean society. It follows Korea's
first serial killer case that took place in 1986 and
lasted five years, and resulted in the brutal
murders and rapes of ten women. The killing spree
began in a small-town in Gyeongi
Province, outside Seoul, where a woman is found
brutalized in a rice paddy field ditch and the
evidence is compromised by reporters walking all over
the crime scene. The elusive killer was never caught,
though a suspect (Hae-il Park) was
eventually questioned and released when DNA evidence
couldn't be confirmed.
film is played in the first part mostly for broad
comedy and gallows humor. The two
uneducated local thuggish cops, Detective
Park (Song Kang-ho) and Detective
Cho Yong-koo (Kim Rwe-ha), are in over
their head and when another vic is found similarly
strangled with her stockings, Seoul sends the young,
but better educated, Detective Seo Tae-Yoon
(Kim Sang-Kyung) to assist. The city
cop and the country cops clash, as their ways of
investigating are vastly different. The police are
stuck as the body count grows, as they don't have
the resources or the skill-set to handle this murder
investigation. The local cops beat any suspect
brought in for questioning, follow false leads or
get to real leads too late, and think they can tell
if someone's guilty by looking them in the eye when
questioning them or resorting to the use of shamen
to point them in the right direction.
The pic becomes considerably darker when an alert policewoman (Koh Seo-hee) notices all the murders take place when the requested by postcard song of Sad Letter is played on the radio. Detective Seo Tae-Yoon also notes all the murders occur on rainy nights and the single female vics all wear red clothes. When the detectives at last forget their differences to catch the suspected killer, a newly arrived factory office worker, they are thwarted because the military dictatorship fails to send the garrison of troops needed to corner the killer in the act and another murder occurs when they lose sight of him in a botched tail. Seo Tae-Yoon seems to be losing his professionalism over the failed investigation and lack of help from the authorities.
This case, a sad record of the Cold War era when the events happened, resulted in the biggest investigation scandal in South Korean history and left bad memories about police incompetence and the country's lack of modern scientific labs, as Bong Joon-Ho criticizes the government and the police for doing a poor job protecting the public and on top of that acting so boorishly.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2013 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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