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Memories of Murder

A Korean movie directed by Joon-Ho Bong

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`Memories of Murder' is a great Korean Murder Mystery

  • Jun 29, 2007
  • by
This was a well-made mystery based on a series of murders committed in Korea in 1986. Main character Park (Kang-ho Song) is a cross between Dirty Harry and Takeshi Kitano's characters, though on a much more vulgar level. His methods of investigation are appalling (and simultaneously funny). He gets his tips from a lover, consults a fortuneteller for information (and then tries to get her to name a suspect from a series of photos he shows her) and even stoops to the level of stealing a mentally retarded man's shoe in order to place a print at the crime scene. As the case becomes more baffling and gruesome, so does Park's desperation in solving the case by any means necessary, even if it means locking up an innocent man. His exasperation stems from the lack of technology and training available in Korea coupled with a provincial police department that simply does not have experience in solving serial murders. It's a case that has shocked the nation and the team is simply not equipped to handle it (though it doesn't help that they continually botch things up, from destroying and planting evidence to torturing detained suspects). Park looks to his movie heroes for inspiration but alas, it's not enough. The requisite cop from the big city, played by Sang-kyung Kim, comes to the rescue and to take part in a good cop/bad cop routine that turns increasingly grey. Park's not totally corrupt though: when DNA tests returned from America prove that a suspect is not the killer he is let go instead of being shot in the head.

Director Joon-ho guides the scenes from macabre to humorous in a steady manner that isn't jarring or out of context. Indeed, it's this humor that adds a surprising layer of lightness to the entire production. Though police justice may be hard to come by in this hick town, comedic poetic justice does in fact exist. The cop whose signature movie is kicking suspects into confession has a leg amputated after a rusty nail is driven in by an angry victim. In one hilarious scene Park, convinced that the murderer is a hairless man, spends the day spying on Buddhist monks in a bathhouse. He will go to any lengths, other than actually using a logical methodology!

The cinematography of the countryside is spectacular and unsettling: in this bucolic setting of golden fields and open skies there is a murderer loose and praying on unsuspecting women. Joon-ho cleverly creates a suffocating atmosphere: the tension and unease of the victims and the police are palpable. Coupled with an excellent cast and sharp dialogue, Joon-ho has fashioned a compelling, edgy film on the nature of justice when human fallibility and lack of scientific evidence are in great quantity.

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More Memories of Murder reviews
review by . August 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
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 -- …
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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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