February 6, 2017

The Chronicles of Evil: Double Vision

Can a movie have an identical twin? Not a clone like Gus Van Sant's Psycho, but an actual double of sorts, birthed from the same egg of an idea then evolving into something separate but remarkably similar. The kinship between The Chronicles of Evil and A Hard Day is striking. At first glance, they look like the same movie: A not-clearly-necessary cover-up that follows an accidental killing of a coincidentally bad guy leads a corrupt cop to execute a series of self-protective crimes, which in turn lead to threats to his own family's safety as well as the death of his buddy on the force. I can't speak for the histories of the screenplays, but Chronicles, which came out a year later, definitely feels like the copycat work, the lesser twin, if such a thing can be said. It's one of those cases in which you keep staring until you realize one of the two is much cuter in the end.

Which isn't to imply that Chronicles isn't doing anything to improve on the original (which was hardly a perfect thriller). Once it's done with duplicating its predecessor's central narrative, it actually does deliver some very WTF plot twists involving a gay actor (Choi Daniel) with lip gloss and addiction issues, and his murderous muse (Park Seo-joon who in his mid 20s comes across 16). Also, any opportunity to see Korean cinema's reigning teddy bear Jeong Man-sik must be embraced. He's Korea's answer to Bruce Willis, although no one's bothered to cast him in the lead yet. At least not that I know. Tell me I'm wrong! In the main role instead is Son Hyeon-ju who gives a truly strange performance that appears to be augmented by a prescription bottle of ready tears as he looks on the verge of crying for much of this film.

I hope writer-director Baek Woon-hak goes out on a limb for his next movie and does something more wholly original. But given there were twelve years between this flick and his stinky Tube, I guess we'll be waiting awhile to find out. That's okay by me. I'm no rush.

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