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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Our Town (2007)
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by Jay Seaver

"Staying off a serial killer's turf is just common sense."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: The trailer and description for "Our Town" had me expecting something a little different - a little more cat and mouse, a little less "it's all connected". It's unfair to be disappointed by that (judge the movie one what it is, rather than what you expect it to be), but the idea of two serial killers becoming aware of each other and looking to take each other out is so good that I hope someone else picks up on it.

This mid-sized Korean town does have a serial killer - four dead girls in as many months, strung up and displayed in public places. Jae-shin (Lee Sun-kyun) is investigating, but the killer is much too careful and meticulous. Meanwhile, Jae-shin's longtime friend Gyeong-joo (Oh Man-suk) is writing a novel about a serial killer, which his editor dismisses as unrealistic despite it being based on true events. As a result, he's having a hard time paying the rent, which leads to a situation where he kills his landlady in a fit of rage. He hits on the idea of staging a scene to look like another killing in the series, putting the cops on the wrong track. Of course, there's an obvious flaw in his plan - when Hyoi (Ryou Duck-hwan) at the general store sees the news about a fifth body, he's more than a little curious about what's going on.

So, it's not exactly dueling serial killers, but there's still an interesting thriller to be had here. The potential trouble comes from writer Mo Hong-jin taking that situation and weighing it down with prior events. It makes a certain level of sense to have the chief investigator's best friend be the copycat killer; he's the one with reason to believe that he might get away with it. Then, okay, maybe Gyeong-joo walks into Hyoi's store while the news breaks. Soon, though, there comes a point where the mounting connections between the three leads becomes too much. Each of them is interesting in and of themselves, but at a certain point the cumulative effect is everything feeling forced..

The movie suffers a little from bad pacing. For a good chunk of the movie's running time, the killers aren't actually doing much killing; there are two distinct sequences where we get a murder as part of a fantasy sequence or story as if to make sure the audience stays interested in the early going, but that doesn't help when things start slowing down in the middle. There are bits that seem like they should be exciting but are actually left out altogether - we see Hyoi's detailed planning to sneak into police headquarters, and the aftermath, but the actual deed is shown as a flashback of him sitting in a chair. It's hard to guess whether this is Mo's script or Jung il-young's direction, but someone somewhere miscalculated what would make for an exciting movie.

The sad part is that the stars are giving the best they can to the film. Lee Sun-kyun doesn't have a flashy role, and seems to get saddled with many of the story's weaker bits (sure, I'll leave casefiles for an ongoing multiple murder investigation in the apartment of my friend, who knew one of the victims!), but he comes across as trustworthy and frustrated regardless. Ryou Duck-hwan gets the obviously creepy things to do, and he does them very well; Hyoi is thoroughly insane, but in a tightly controlled way, even if he is unnerving just talking to his dog. Oh Man-suk is the one who really gets to shine; although he has a couple fairly silly scenes, he does manage to convince us that the distance between a law-abiding citizen and a murderer isn't as short as one might think. He can seem quite reasonable much of the time even while the nasty stuff can be seen waiting to jump to the fore.

In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter that I thought "Our Town" was going to be something else; it has problems enough with the story it's trying to tell. Too bad that doesn't do much more than clear my conscience.

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originally posted: 07/16/08 15:08:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/19/13 Hannah M I enjoyed it very much. It had me thrilled and alert with it's mystery. 4 stars
7/17/08 Eloise Carlson Decent movie, I kinda liked it, 3 stars
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Directed by
  Jung Gil-young

Written by
  Mo Hong-jin

  Ryou Duck-hwan
  Oh Man-suk
  Lee Sun-kyun

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