J'accuse! In Korean!
'Confession of Murder' is guilty … of being pretty kickass
By Marc Savlov, 4:43PM, Sun. Sep. 22
South Korea's cinematic star has been rising steadily of late. The arrival of the violent, existential works of Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, and Bong Joon-ho marked a reshuffling of the Asian Badass Filmmaker deck. Now it's Jeong Byeong-gil's turn.
This is Jeong's first attempt at a straight narrative feature film (following 2008's stuntman doc Action Boys), and while it has a relentless pace and one serious sucker punch of a third act, it's still a little rough around the edges.
Often, that can work to a relative newcomer's advantage, but here, the film's setup takes its own sweet time getting going, with bizarre plotting that might well be taken for a K-popcult critique of a zeitgeist riddled with media overkill and the disingenuousness of reality television and dumb-lit tell-alls. Here, it's the fact that a uncaught serial killer has published a tell-all book detailing his horrific crimes after the statute of limitations has run out and he's free to be you and me, as well as a handsome, charming, fully repentant devil (Park Si-hoo, by day also a major K-pop television mega-star).
This irks brooder of the first order Lt. Choi (Jeong Jai-yeong), the cop who almost nailed the psycho 15 years prior. That failure has left him a drunken shell of a man, but when the victims' families get into the vengeance trade, he's manages to crawl out of his bottle of Hanja Beer and steps back onto what has suddenly become an extremely twisty path: From out of nowhere, an unknown phone caller claims he was actually behind the murders. A live debate/reveal between the three on national television marks the film crazy high on the WTF? scale.
Kim Gi-tae's (Bedevilled) ace cinematography adds a whole lotta action – a highway chase scene and a micro-brawl in an elevator are downright wearying – and Nam Na-young's tricky-slick editing skills are to be worshipped from afar, but Confessions of Murder never quite rises to the level of the many superior cops 'n' crazies pics that South Korea now seems to produce at will. There's a semi-unappealing randomness to much of the script – credited to the director – that bespeaks either lazy writing or a chancy debut. My bet is on the latter, and the stunt work on display is reason enough to check out Jeong's first feature-length freakout. And, for now at least, that's good enough for me.
Confession of Murder screens Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2pm.