I bought this movie because of Darcy Paquet’s review. He called it “a masterfully directed, superbly acted film which is at turns blackly humorous, thought-provoking, and horrifying.” That praise is right on the mark. Memories of Murder (2003) is extremely gripping stuff and the acting from the two leads and supporting cast just stupendous.
The movie is based on a real crime that took place in a small village in Korea. Between 1986 and 1991, ten young women were raped and murdered in a similar fashion: strangled by their own underwear. The plot focuses on the investigative efforts to uncover the murderer.
Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung play two detectives with vastly different personalities and backgrounds who are assigned to work together on the case. As the murders pile up, its audacity making a mockery of the investigation, we see Song and Kim cracking under intense pressure. Song is not above using brute and unscrupulous means to force suspects to confess to the crimes. Kim, in contrast, is the intellectual trying his darndest to outsmart the murderer.
Although the two leads are outstanding in their roles, the most absorbing acting in the movie comes from the three murder suspects: a mentally-handicapped man with a hideous scar on his face, a married man with a strange sexual perversion, and a feminine-looking young man with a peculiar habit.
(After Park Hae-il charmed my socks off in My Mother, the Mermaid, I did a little “research” and learned that he was in Memories of Murder, an earlier movie. Hmm, I don’t recall seeing my handsome postman in this movie at all. He wasn’t part of the police and he definitely wasn’t one of the suspects… *insert a hasty Memories of Murder rewatch* Ah, mystery solved! I picked my jaw off the floor and gained a renewed respect for this chameleon of an actor. Not only is he exceedingly fine in his acting [and I can vouch for his acting chops after watching all of his movies except the newest one], he has an uncanny ability to appear smaller or larger. No wonder I could not recognize him in Memories of Murder! Or was it because his character totally creeped me out, and half the time I was watching him with a pillow over one eye?)
Memories of Murder reminds me once again of all the reasons why I love Korean movies. The plot, the cast, the cinematography, the soundtrack… They all come together in one MAGNIFICENT whole to weave a spellbinding story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is a movie that will be discussed (and remembered) for a long, long time.