June 13, 2015

The Scent: A Formulated Noir

Grisly murders. Mistaken identities. Double-crossing lovers. Extortion. Adultery. Jailbreak. Evidence tampering. A patsy private eye. A flirty femme fatale. Even an increasingly complicated alibi that changes with each new clue. Sum up Kim Hyeong-joon's The Scent and people will no doubt think you're describing a B-movie noir. That is, until you add that final factor: This movie has no suspense. A mystery that goes for giggles more than gasps, this did-I-do-it whodunit frames its hero as the killer (in his own memory-lapsed mind, though never ours) then forces us to watch him discover that the most obvious suspect most probably killed the man who beat her then screwed other women in front of her. Is she's wearing a doped perfume that clouds everyone's judgment? Or, more likely, is writer-director Kim Hyeong-joon sniffing from the same poisoned bottle as he revises each screenplay draft?

Kim's thinking throughout is unclear. Who murdered Soo-jin's rich, cruel, lascivious husband as well as his adulterous lover in the hotel room next door? Why is said lover — who shares the wife's name and bedmate — hiring a P.I. to catch the husband in flagrante delicto? How much does the personal trainer from the gym have to do with the crimes? Are the shelves and shelves of disposable lighters ever going to come into play? Kim's plot is full of more holes than the stab wounds suffered by its two main victims. Even so, this kooky caper could've escaped merciless scrutiny if the following elements had come into play:

The framed detective (Park Hee-soon) sweated more, the jealous wife (Cha Su-yeon) carped more, the man-eating seductress (Park Si-yeon) oozed more, the philandering husband leered more, and the mistress blackmailer wept more. The only ones giving more are Lee Kwang-soo and Jeon Soo-kyeong. Lee, as the former cop's gangly sidekick, is straight out of a Max Sennet movie, in which every misguided gesture sets off a Rube Goldberg machine of disaster. Jeon, one of Korea's comic genii, has a bit part as a terrified witness who retracts everything once she learns her culprit is a cop.

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