October 22, 2008

Piano Man: The Keyboard to Insanity

Poor Yu Sang-wook! The director mistakenly thinks we want to hear a nightclub diva singing ludicrous covers of Mariah Carey and Roberta Flack. (We don't.) He also believes that a sub-plot involving an alcoholic detective (Park Cheol) and his Sherlock Holmes of a son (Hong Kyoung-in) is going to add emotional heft to the story. (It doesn't.) Why all the superfluities, Yu? All we really want is a streamlined thriller, a boilerplate potboiler in which one swaggering lady dick (Lee Seung-yeon) tracks down a Goth serial killer (Choi Min-su) who does ventriloquism, lights himself on fire, and sulks behind a grunge-rocker hairdo. Piano Man (1996) had the potential to be so much more; it just needed to stick to doing a little less: As is, the procedural-crime drama has kick-ass cinematography from Seo Jeong-min who shoots from retro angles and in just the right palette of lurid reds. It's also got a bad-ass female detective who can give a serious smackdown to a gang of lawbreakers hustling black market license plates. Piano Man isn't quite a poor man's Memories of Murder. It's more like a fun but sloppy copy of something exceptionally good.

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