Reel Asian Review: Confession of Murder (내가 살인범이다)

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

My two favourite film genres are action and thrillers – with sci-fi coming a close third – so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to Confession of Murder (내가 살인범이다). Not only did I hear that it was a gripping thriller but the director, Jeong Byeong Gil (정병길) went to Seoul Action School – a renowned school for stunt men – so I couldn’t wait to see the action in it. And it didn’t disappoint!

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s give you a brief overview of the film before I tell you how much I loved it. ^^

**Warning: Like all reviews, there may be spoilers within. Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the film.**

Synopsis

A serial killer murders 10, perhaps 11, women from 1986 to 1990. Fast forward to 2007, two years after the 15 year statute of limitations expire, a handsome man – Lee Doo Seok, played by Park Si Hoo (박시후) – releases a book with detailed information about the murders and claims to be the killer. The book – driven in large part by Lee’s good looks, charm and the media circus surrounding his claim – becomes a best-seller.

However, the detective in charge of the serial killer case 17 years before – Choi Hyeong Goo, played by Jeong Jae Yeong (정재영), doesn’t believe that he’s the real killer.

Meanwhile, some of the victim’s family members are plotting revenge. They manage to kidnap Lee but just as they start to question him about the 11th girl whose body was never found, Detective Choi tracks him down and rescues him, having recognized the kidnappers during the car chase.

A TV station, trying to capitalize on the frenzy around the case and book, invites Lee and Detective Choi to an on-camera debate. During the debate things really get interesting when a mysterious caller – J – claims to be the real killer.

Confession of Murder director, Jeong Byeong Gil, at the Reel Asian Q&A after the screening
Confession of Murder director, Jeong Byeong Gil, at the Reel Asian Q&A after the screening

My thoughts

I watched an advance screening of Confession of Murder prior to catching it at 2013 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) to prepare for my interview with director Jeong Byeong Gil (if you haven’t read the interview yet, what are you waiting for… click the link and read it now!). Despite having just watched the film, I became just as engrossed with it as the rest of the audience at Reel Asian. It’s just that good! Although I will admit to covering my eyes during the swimming pool scene – well, after Lee jumps into the pool (I didn’t want to miss seeing Park Si Hoo in a bathing suit ^^) because while it’s a cool scene (what a creative way to attach someone), it’s hard to watch.

Director Jeong Byeong Gil said in our interview that he wanted to grab the audience right from the start and not let go… and he certainly did. Not only was I riveted but I paid attention to the reactions of those around me and everyone was glued to the film. It’s a fabulous thriller with lots of sub-plots and players that will keep you guessing throughout.

The casting was amazing. Jeong Jae Yeong – whom I first saw in Glove (글러브) and then in Our Sunhi (우리 선희) – was amazing as the police detective, he gave just the right combination of emotions and vibe to the character. Plus it helps that he just seems so rugged and masculine and therefore was the perfect counterpoint to Park Si Hoo. Speaking of Park Si Hoo, he was fabulous as the supposed killer with his charm and pretty-boy good looks (it’s hard to believe that he’s 36). The rest of the cast was just as good – Jeong Hae Gyoon (정해균) was super creepy as J.

On a slight tangent, the actor who played Detective Choi’s partner, Bae Sung Woo (배성우) was also in the other Korean film that screened this year at Reel Asian, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서).

Confession of Murder director, Jeong Byeong Gil, at the Reel Asian Q&A after the screening
Confession of Murder director, Jeong Byeong Gil, at the Reel Asian Q&A after the screening

Back to the film at hand. I have a thing for car chases… I love them! And I have to say that the one in Confession of Murder was by far the coolest. First of all, it involved not only cars – and an ambulance – but also fighting that spilled out of the ambulance and on top of several of the cars. The best part, however, was the use of the ambulance stretcher. When I get the DVD, I’m going to watch and re-watch this scene a few times.

But beyond the action sequences – which rocked – two things stood out from the film for me. First, how quickly – and how believably – the media and the public fell in love with Lee. It was such a chilling indictment of how good looks and charm can create a celebrity cult that can overshadow the fact that he was a supposed serial killer.

The other interesting point was the statute of limitation on murder being only 15 years – and that this was the reality in Korea until 2012 when it was changed to 25 years. It really makes you think, should there be a statute of limitations on major crimes like murder? And of course, that was what the director wanted… us to think about both issues.

Confession of Murder is one of those films that has something for everyone. Do you want to watch a good action flick and just enjoy the entertainment? Then it’s for you as it’s an intense, gripping thriller; with some cool action sequences filmed by a director who truly understands action scenes. Do you want an intelligent film that will make you think and be great to inspire debate in the coffee shop afterwards? Confession of Murder touches on some interesting and relevant topics such as the media’s influence on society and the value of a statute of limitations. All in all, it was a fabulous film!

Have you seen Confession of Murder? What did you think of it? 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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