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Memories of Murder

A Korean movie directed by Joon-Ho Bong

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An artsy, darkly funny spin on the murder-mystery genre.

  • Aug 6, 2011
*** out of ****

"Memories of Murder" is a beautifully directed, wonderfully acted murder-mystery thriller from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho. His previous film was "Barking Dogs Never Bite", a witty satire; and the film that he followed up this one with was "The Host". Now, I have always loved "The Host"; which is the best monster movie of the 2000's, and perhaps my favorite of all-time; or at least one of them. I admire how Joon-Ho breathes new life in the form of satire and commentary into each of his films. Somehow, he manages to succeed in doing so yet again in this movie; which happens to be about something that most people wouldn't even attempt to satirize: serial killers.

This is, to my knowledge, the first serial killer-thriller that Bong Joon-Ho has directed. Yet, he still seems to know the basics; and he puts his own unique spin on the genre. He is a skilled filmmaker and he's out to prove it. "Memories of Murder" works so well because it is not drenched in style, but it is very much interested in its characters and its narrative. Sometimes, of course, there are characters that feel a bit left out amongst others; but when you've got a movie this involving, you just don't care all that much.

Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) must deal with the toughest and most serious case in all of his life; as a police-man. The case is centered on the local murders and rapes of young women. Park does not have access to high-tech equipment that would help him and his crew find the culprit as fast as they possibly could, so the film goes slowly-and-slowly into the depths of human darkness.

However, I think this works to the film's advantage. By not having the technology of today, the team has to use older techniques to beat information out of each suspect. They make use of torture methods; and they even have to call in another detective for help. The minds of the new guy and the genuinely unready and inexperienced guy clash; and all this time, the murders refuse to stop.

The film is sometimes deep, and always slow-moving. So if you don't like slow films, you should start walking now and keep on doing so until you're far, far away. However, you could always look deeper into this film and acknowledge that it's fairly good at what it does. There is satire and dark humor to be found here; it's not always obvious, but it's always intriguing and intelligent nonetheless. "Memories of Murder" is thoroughly bleak yet somewhat exciting at parts. It makes good use of its cast, and its director. I think it's a smart movie. I don't know if it's a great one, but I respect anyone who thinks it is. It's well-made and understandable enough, I suppose.

And as always, Bong Joon-Ho delivers when it comes to pitch-perfect cinematography and music. The film looks beautiful without feeling stylish; because if the film WAS stylish, it would have lost its appeal, I think. But that's just my opinion. Sometimes I enjoy a stylized murder-mystery movie, sometimes I don't. This one feels old-fashioned enough for me to enjoy it as much as I did. It's not a movie for everyone, but I'd recommend it to those with solid attention spans.

I enjoyed the human element of the film. For me, it's not as emotionally striking as it wants to be, but when the film gets tense, believe me; it gets TENSE. Overall, this is a nicely-made little mood piece that is as disturbing as it is thought-provoking. It feels a tad overlong at times, but it's good enough to be worth most of the ride. It's not as good as Bong Joon-Ho's "The Host", but that's not saying too much; because I loved that film, and I don't necessarily love this one. However, few movies, like this one, are interesting, like this one. So if you're in to stuff like this, I say: check it out.

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More Memories of Murder reviews
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
A scary but potent crime thriller from the director of "The Host."
review by . April 15, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
U.S. dvd cover
"Memories of Murder" (aka. Salinui Chueok, 2003) is a film based on real events that occurred in a small town in South Korea between 1986 to 1991. The film is about South Korea's first serial killer, when advancements in forensics and DNA evidence hasn't been perfected yet. Director Bong Joon-Ho brings us a dramatic police thriller that portrays the investigation of these brutal rape and murders when all cops could rely upon are their instincts, intuition, street savvy and intimidation. I have …
review by . December 31, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
A hotshot young detective from Seoul is enlisted to help out the old school small town detectives when it becomes clear they have a sophisticated serial killer on their hands. The local detectives' old school methods -- unscientific crime scene investigation, gathering of usual suspects and assisting them to remember with threats and torture, planting of evidence -- aren't going to cut it with a sophisticated killer on the loose who threatens repeat violence. On the other hand, the new methods -- …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


A South Korean thriller based on a true story,Memories of Murdercomes across like a hybrid ofSilence of the LambsandOne False Move. A pair of rural detectives, Park (Song Kang-ho) and Jo (Kim Roe-ha), chafe when a Seoul detective named Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) gets involved in their big case: Korea's first known serial killer, who's killed two women on rainy nights. Seo is dismayed by the rural cops' interrogation methods, which consist of beating suspects until they confess--and they aren't above planting evidence or "helping" a suspect remember the details of his crime. While Park and Jo seek clues from fortune tellers and magic charms, Seo struggles to build a case from hard evidence and the forensic approaches only just starting to take hold (the movie is set in 1986). Shots of the victims and jolting moments of violence giveMemories of Murdera dose of gruesomeness, but the movie has more on its mind that exploitation. Visually stylish and psychologically astute,Memories of Murderis as much a portrait of cultural change as a serial killer mystery.--Bret Fetzer
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Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Release Date: May 2, 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: 8/9/2005
Runtime: 2hrs 9min
Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
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