September 1, 2013

Helpless: Save a Little Pity for the Killer, Too

Say what you want about nature versus nurture, there's something invigorating about a movie that sees its primary murder suspect as a victim. In Helpless, that could-be killer is Seon-yeong (Kim Min-hie), a sweet and pretty bride-to-be whose initial bad credit history uncovers an even darker past including prostitution, identity theft and a handful of dead former female friends. In some ways, Seon-yeong was born into this crappy life. Her father's mounting debts led to loan sharks breaking up her first marriage then turning her into a sex slave. While Seon-yeong manages to escape that fate in one way, it permanently damages her and follows her wherever she goes. A survivor without a moral compass, she basically does whatever it takes to get by. She's been conditioned by extremes.

Veterinarian -- and dupe -- Min-ho (Lee Seon-gyu) might've been her ticket out. He promises a life in which he will bring home the bacon then cook it if she just stays home to make babies as sweet and pretty as she is. Could she have changed to become his perfect wife? We'll never know. And it's not as if writer-director Byun Young-joo has you wishing that Min-ho had never enlisted the help of his cousin (Jo Seong-ha), a disgraced detective dismissed from the force for taking bribes, to dig up her sordid past. But you can understand why her potential guilt doesn't destroy Min-ho's love for her so much as it wreaks havoc on his brain. Love isn't rational. And in a way murder isn't either.

Kim is perfect as the film's central cipher as is Lee as her distraught fiance. Jo turns in solid work as the jaded ex-cop as do Choi Duek-mun as a sympathetic police officer with his own corrupt back story and Kim Byul as a chipper veterinarian's assistant who keeps stumbling across further clues. Byun's tight screenplay is based on a Japanese thriller All She Was Worth by Miyabe Miyuki whose work has inspired even more films in her own country. And you can see why.

No comments:

Post a Comment