Classic Intel: Memories Of Murder - DVD Review

'Bong crafts a film which weaves its way across the straight line in the sand representing your average procedural drama'

The prospect of seeing a Joon-Ho Bong written and directed police procedural about a real life South Korean serial killer should fill many a movie fan with the same level of excitement Justin Bieber followers experience pre-concert. Whilst you're not expected to start screaming or dancing in the aisles or anything of a celebratory nature, Bong's collection of films (from this to 2009's Mother) exhibits few faults and many excellent moments of brilliance, most notably in 2006's The Host.

Memories Of Murder is no real exception to this rule. Delightfully playing against genre, Bong crafts a film which weaves its way across the straight line in the sand representing your average procedural drama. It is as if Bong has set out to film his own script, which must recognisably look like a standard police drama, with the overt intention of creating a film which is anything but.

Whilst his aim is admirable, his execution on this occasion is a touch off. Too much time is spent by the director critiquing the police force. Whilst there were no doubt problems with the investigation, they are hard to appreciate when so much time is given over to the characters involved and so little to the 'meat' of the investigation itself. Watching this film after watching Bong's Mother is particularly enlightening in this regard. Much of the critique of the police which is present in that film is also present here although, where in Mother Bong's balance was correct, here it often detracts from the mystery elements of the plot.

When the focus is here though Bong, as usual, shines. Tense sequences of the killer stalking his victims don't creep in until later on in the film but when they do they're dynamically shot and, in the case of the victim murdered outside of the factory, viciously and inventively concluded.

The detectives (led by the ever reliable Kang-ho Song) are straight out of a David Fincher film; dark, conflicted, motivated but, equally, flawed. The character dynamics during the honest investigation are constantly changing as battles for superiority emerge and then disappear beneath a motivation to conclude, only to reappear once the investigation hits a stumbling block. Bong creates the feeling of a realistic investigation remarkably well, never giving us the impression that it is merely a case of joining up the ever-visible dots.

In a remarkable final quarter, Bong weaves in not one but two satisfactory and chilling conclusions; one a standard end to the mystery and the other a finely judged coda. It's not as successful as his other work but it is damn close and well worth visiting as a companion piece to his most recent effort.

Look further...

'Confident storytelling, memorable characters, a sadistic yet oh so suave fusion of disparate tones, a pace that never lulls, character arcs that are born out of and serve the overall story, the list of positives can go on and on' - Between The Seats

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