1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Yeah, it's good n' all...,
This review is from: Memories Of Murder [DVD] (DVD)
The story of inane, underfunded detectives in a rural town in South Korea and their investigation of serial sexual assaults and murders committed by someone whom has proved faultless and far too elusive for small-town detectives to catch. This is the backdrop for what the movie really is, which is a lecture on the horrors of certainty, and the cruelness of doubt.
I won't go into it, in an effort to avoid filling my review with the usual myriad spoilers. Instead, I'd like to focus on the superficial layer- the story and the way in which we are narrated to. Often in an attempt to build character, the story will plough off in tangential directions- this technique normally works for me, but here left me a little drowsy. The characters weren't real for me, never once did the film seem to be too fussed whether or not you particularly care about the central cast, so why bother wasting time with these distractions? What I'm saying is that the film is far from taut, quite in fact, overly long would not be an understatement.
The acting here is great, and the characters are filled with personality by their very capable actors- speaking of which, you really do need to love Korean actors and their willingness to literally throw themselves into their parts- all of whom do a great job. Unfortunately, however, they're put in the difficult position of performing a tricky balancing act. Joon-ho Bong is asking them to juggle the severely macabre with quirky, almost slapstick humour. Not an easy feat by far, and not amusing for myself in the slightest. Perhaps the idea was to add some relief for the viewer from the lazy plot?
The biggest crime committed here is to waste such a talented cast and beautiful cinematography and direction on such a dull story. Conventional is perhaps not enough in describing how prosaic the story is. A certain adjective must be applied, but which is suitably strong I'm not certain. Rigidly conventional, perhaps? One couldn't help but compare the film to the likes of Seven, etc. And yes, in the long run, Memories of Murder does indeed have more value, but I know which I'd rather watch again. Strangely, when I found myself comparing Memories of Murder to other films of the genre, I found that my head wouldn't drift to other films, but in fact to television. And how much better certain TV shows were in almost every respect to this film.
Quite in fact, this whole genre has been out-sleuthed by it's televised counterpart. The once bastard child of the visual arts, in it's renaissance, out-classes and out-characterises film to such a level as to almost make this type of tale a vainglorious waste when displayed on the cinema screen. Almost. See, what cinema still has, and will always have over television, is brevity. The ability to make an existential observation, or frame a timeless and endlessly endearing story is somewhat difficult when drafted well over 50-odd hours of footage and script. Well-crafted film is also beautiful- and that is a particular strength of this film. Joon-ho Bong clearly has a special sense when it comes to knowing just how to frame the beautiful Korean countryside; it's pretty glorious here with all it's rustic charm.
The story though, with all it's twists and it's turns, in the end follows the sign-posts of the genre. There are ups, there are downs, there's a murder, there's a clue, there's a twist, and so on. The Wire captures the intricacies of the reality behind the drug war, The Killing with it's often gruellingly slow pace manages to manifest all of the characters in the show with layers of depth, elevating itself far above the stock crime procedural. What does Memories of Murder do? This is the question I asked myself when determining how I would score it. I found very little to distinguish it from other movies of a similar ilk- up until the end, of course. But, sadly, that just wasn't enough.
The strengths of 'Memories of Murder' are very much the talented crew, beautiful shots of the Korean countryside, and the lingering sadness it evokes long after the credits roll.
Frankly? I preferred The Chaser.