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Confession of Murder
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by Jay Seaver

"No statute of limitations on revenge, and good thing!"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If movies were graded on a strict plus-minus system, "Confession of Murder" would grade out as average; it's packed full of silly and unbelievable plotting and twists along with a feeling of missed opportunities with its media satire, and a few good action scenes don't necessarily make up for that. What that doesn't necessarily take into account is that this movie is most fun when it's at its most insane.

The first insane part, perhaps, is that South Korea has a statute of limitations on murder. Why would you have that? It does, though, fifteen years as of 2005, when the case of a serial killer of ten women - one that particularly tormented detective Choi Hyung-goo (Jung Jae-young), leaving him with scars literal and physical - was dropped. Two years later, Lee Doo-suk (Park Si-hoo) publishes I Am the Murderer, confessing to his crimes in great detail. Handsome, telegenic, and superficially sincere in his desire to make amends, Doo-suk is an instant celebrity, which maddens Choi no end, especially since the book doesn't reveal the location of the last body. Also livid - the families of the victims. And there's no time limit on wanting revenge.

There's a smart, subversive satire of a movie about celebrity culture, equal protection under the law, and the reality of the modern media to be made from that premise. Occasionally, writer/director Jung Byoung-gil decides that he's going to be the one to make it, and whenever he does, Confession of Murder sinks like a stone. It's just strange to have a movie that plays on how screwy people get about celebrities set five years ago - did it get less ridiculous in the Republic of Korea between 2007 and 2012? Jung is also too happy to play into cop-movie tropes to be credible in talking about law enforcement's role in society but also a little too dry when dealing with the media. That part is absurd enough in its way, but far too restrained.

The family of the victims, however, has no such issue. There's pitch-black comedy in their attempts to get revenge - many of them involving snakes and crossbows, because a couple of them happen to have those as a hobby - including a great big car chase involving Choi, a stolen ambulance, and Lee's personal security that could come straight out of an Indiana Jones movie from the way everyone is jumping from one vehicle to another. Every time this movie threatens to be become serious, there's some over-the-top bit of action or comedy or plot twist that makes one laugh. The script will cause a lot of rolling of eyes; for all that it does a good job of hiding some things that the last act will need in plain sight, it holds out other information rather unfairly. Still, the better moments push things toward the positive side of the ledger.

Because writer/director Jung is holding some things back, not all of the cast really gets to shine. Park Si-hoo, for instance, never really gets to show the charisma that Doo-suk must have in order for this story to work, just coming off as good-looking but over-polished. His blandness does make the rumpled anger Jung Jae-young gives Choi a lot more fun in contrast; the actor makes the character a great center of the movie, even if the whole plot does center around him being kind of ineffective. The family members do some crazy stuff, but only one of them - Kim Young-ae as the missing victim's mother - really commands the screen throughout. Things do loosen up as the climax draws nearer, which allows Park Si-hoo and Jung Hae-kyun (playing another one of the aggrieved) to cut loose.

To Jung Byoung-gil's credit, the movie never feels like it's treading water until the last act or just throwing out distractions, a situation to which this sort of thriller can all too often fall victim. It avoids that in part by being ludicrous, but it's more often the go-for-broke fun kid of nuts than the stupid variety, and that scores it a lot of points.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25329&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/14/13 12:42:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2013 Fantastic Fest series, click here.

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USA
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  DVD: 15-Apr-2014

UK
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Australia
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Directed by
  Byeong-gil Jeong

Written by
  Byeong-gil Jeong

Cast
  Jae-young Jung
  Si-Hoo Park
  Young-Ae Kim
  Gwang Jang
  Eun-Ji Jo



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