Memories of Murder, based on an infamous real-life serial murder case that rocked the Korean peninsula in 1986, is the second feature from acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. In this hardboiled suspense thriller shot through with surprising and sometimes shocking dark humor, a small team of police officers led by Detective Park (Song Kang-ho, The Host) becomes increasing frustrated in their efforts to hunt down a mysterious killer who has been preying on women in a rural village in the Gyeong-gi province.
“It’s an altogether remarkable piece of work, deepening the genre while whipping its skin off, satirizing an entire nation’s nearsighted apathy as it wonders, almost aloud, about the nature of truth, evidence, and social belonging.” – Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
As the corpses and the red herrings pile up, seemingly everyone in the village, from the local oddball to a strange radio show caller who requests the same song each time a murder takes place, is a suspect, and as the investigation continues, the film effectively etches a portrait of a society unraveling, and of the rocky relationship between a down-to-Earth country cop and his more methodical city counterpart who comes from Seoul to join the team. Already impressive as a gripping policier of the first order, director Bong Joon-ho takes it further, creating a brittle and oppressive atmosphere where eccentricity is suspect, society is inward looking, the guilty are elusive and the victims are everywhere. He has also created an insightful political portrait, powerfully conveying the disjointed feeling of living in the repressive environment of Korea at the time. With its thrilling storyline and a tone that balances neatly between grim humor and tragic helplessness, Memories of Murder is a uniquely riveting experience. (Dir. by Bong Joon-Ho, 2003, South Korea, in Korean with subtitles, 132 mins., Not Rated)