October 19, 2007

Memories of Murder: Postcards From the Dead

What makes Memories of Murder such an unusually gripping detective film isn't some requisite, titillating peeling of layers that ends up revealing the twisted logic of a sick-but-brilliant serial killer's mind. Instead, director Bong Joon-ho slowly draws you into the frustrated psyches of his two policemen as they find themselves increasingly frustrated in their attempts to crack the code. It's a momentum headed towards the void, not hell. The country mouse / city mouse conflict between the two investigators is initially played for chuckles but eventually the contrast in techniques (primitive vs. sophisticated) remains just that. A contrast. Bong never ends up celebrating one over the other or even equating them as yin and yang. Justice, it turns out, takes her own sweet time if she even arrives at all. I'm always psyched to see Song Kang-ho in a movie (The Host, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Joint Security Area); he's somehow likable even when he's playing what should be a fairly unsympathetic cop. Here, as a self-aggrandizing doofus who must come to grips with his own inadequacies, he brings his usual love-me-even-though-I'm-stupid persona that personally I find impossible to resist.

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