Memories of Murder (2003)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Police Drama, Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Jun 24, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 131 min.  |   Countries - Korea, South   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Tom Vick

Led by a brilliant ensemble cast, including Song Kang-ho (Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) and Kim Sang-Gyeong (Turning Gate), Memories of Murder walks a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Based on a series of grisly crimes that still remain fresh in Koreans' minds, the film focuses on the effects of those crimes on the minds of the men who have to investigate them day after day. Director Bong Joon-ho also emphasizes the political upheaval of the time, when South Korea was emerging painfully from a long history of militarism and dictatorship, which is reflected in the brutal behavior of the local police force. Against this backdrop, Bong sets a group of deeply flawed characters. Despite its grim subject, the film keeps a surprisingly humorous tone for most of the way, and the jokes are dark and biting. One officer has a frilly fabric covering to put over his boot so he won't leave marks when he stomps suspects. Even darker, at one point the killer spies a lone woman walking at night, only to discover another one going the other way. and seems to panic at the abundance of choices. The humor of the scene points to a deeper truth about the potentially horrible vicissitudes of fate: One of the women is destined to die and the other will return home safely. Bong admirably refuses to exploit the gruesome deaths of women for voyeuristic thrills (as many such films do). He respects the tragedy of the events by showing the toll they took on the living, and a scene set years after the murders finishes the film with an intensely chilling coda.