August 19, 2010

Shadows in the Palace: A Slow Death

There's a half-decent murder-mystery/costume-drama to be salvaged from the grandly shot footage of Shadows in the Palace but as a too-slow burn deadened by a supernatural black fog that kills off suspects one by one, Kim Mee-jeung's pretty-looking period piece is instead a lame anti-suspense with weird horror F/X that reminded me of the inky squirt of a panicked squid. After awhile, I stopped caring if Chosun dynasty nurse-to-the-courtesans Chun-ryung (Park Jin-hie) was ever going to find out who the murderer was and started thinking that the movie was just plain odd. All the quippy bitchery I expected from a thriller set in a gynocentric society of maids and female medics never came to fruition. All the plot twists and sudden revelations that should've led to my involuntary gasp in the living room caused nothing of the sort. As art, this one didn't work. As pulp, it didn't work either. Neither sassy nor nasty, the film needs to flash B-movie tit or unfurl melodramatic claws to get my sisterly praise. (On the plus side, it does show one woman getting her hands chopped off.) Beautiful and bland, Shadows in the Palace only triggers one helluva classy yawn. Hee-bin (Yun Se-ah) can scheme to make her son a crowned prince all she wants. I'm still looking for the queen!

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