Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder ★★★★

Film #22 of 30 in my March Around The World | 2016 Challenge

Detective Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho ) is working on a pair of homicides that could be related. Both involve young women who were bound & gagged, raped, murdered and dumped in the countryside of Gyunggi Province. But the investigation is plagued by the incompetence of local law enforcement.

Park's girlfriend Kwok Seol-yung (Jeon Mi-seon) gives him a tip that she heard some people refer to a retarded youth named Baek Kwang-ho (Park No-shik ) to as "The Ladykiller." He apparently knew one of the victims and used to follow her around. Park and fellow detective Cho Yong-koo (Kim Roe-ha) bring Baek in for some good-cop/bad-cop interrogation, but get nowhere with their ruffian tactics.

That's when Police Headquarters in Seoul assigns Detective Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung) to the case. While Park and Cho intimidate Baek and try to coerce a confession out of him, Seo studies the photos of the crime scene and the evidence, looking for clues, and he concludes that Baek couldn't possibly have done the crime. What's more, Seo correctly deduces that a third murder has occurred and he predicts the location of the body.

Writer-director Bong Joon-ho gives us plenty to think about here, sprinkled with liberal doses of humor. There's the conflict between the country and city ways of conducting police work, the badgering presence of the press, loyalty to the blue line, and the growing mystery of who is committing these serial killings. For a while, it looks like a man caught masturbating near one of the crime scenes might be the culprit, then attention shifts to a factory worker named Park Hyeon-gyu. And briefly, it seems like there might be an eyewitness and some conclusive DNA evidence, but inevitably every lead turns into a dead end.

Apart from some pretty good chase scenes, several more murders and plenty of eating/drinking scenes, one of the best aspects of this film is the way a role reversal occurs, with Park becoming more cautious and logical as Seo lets the case get to him emotionally. Clearly, this sophomore feature by filmmaker Bong was a finger pointing toward even greater work to come. It's also rather amazing to think this actually predated "Zodiac" (2007), which could easily have been cut from the same cloth. Well done!

#229 among The IMDb Top 250 (June 2014)

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