Korean writer/director Jung Byung Gil makes his commercial feature debut with “Confession of Murder”, following up on his acclaimed 2008 stuntman documentary “Action Boys”. The film takes the usually serious and gloomy serial killer genre and injects a significant amount of pace and excitement, not to mention an odd streak of humour, with top actor Jung Jae Young (“The Divine Weapon”) butting heads with popular television star Park Si Hoo (“The Princess’ Man”) as a charismatic murderer. The mixture certainly went down well with Korean audiences, and despite its adults-only rating, the film emerged as somewhat of a surprise box office hit.
The film kicks off with Jung as the grizzled Detective Choi, who fails to catch the vicious killer responsible for the deaths of 10 women, earning himself a large scar on his face during a fruitless rooftop chase. 15 years later and after the statute of limitations has passed on the crimes, no-one is more shocked than Choi when a fresh-faced man called Lee Du Seok (Park Si Hoo) confesses to the crimes, stating that although he cannot be prosecuted, he wishes to repent for his acts. Publishing a best-seller called ‘I am the Murderer’, the brazen Lee courts the media and deliberately antagonises Choi while matters are further complicated by a gang of victims’ relatives attempting to take revenge and a mysterious man who starts calling the press claiming to be the real killer.
It’s definitely best not to go into “Confession of Murder” expecting anything too moody or dark, as Jung Byung Gil takes things in a very different direction, and though the film might sound similar to Park Chan Wook’s “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”, the two have little in common indeed. Opening with highly stylised and kinetic action, it’s clear from the start that Jung is aiming mainly for thrills rather than drama, and the film packs in a surprisingly high number of set pieces and over the top scenes, most notably a swimming pool killer snake attack and a long motorway chase sequence complete with fist fights and leaping between car roofs. Jung thankfully has the skills and choreography to pull this off and the action is well-handled and exciting, making the film fast moving and fun throughout. It’s also pretty violent and gruesome in places, ensuring that the subject matter isn’t undermined too much by the film’s dafter moments, and Jung manages to maintain a pleasingly hard edge through to the finale.
The story itself is similarly quirky, offering far more than the usual cat of mouse style battle of wills between cop and killer. Without wishing to give anything away, Jung’s script is highly creative and works in a variety of twists and turns along the way, and whilst to be fair some of them strain credulity, the end result is something far more entertaining and appealing than the idea of yet another straightforward serial killer flick. The film is both tense and unpredictable, and though some viewers probably will see at a few of the big reveals coming, there’s always a lot going on and plenty to keep guessing about.
It also helps that Jung doesn’t seem to have been taking things too seriously, and though thankfully he plays things with a straight face and never undermines the essential nastiness of the plot, there’s a definite grim glee to certain parts of the film which sits quite comfortably with its action and thriller elements. Both Jung Jae Young and Park Si Hoo are on great form, and the shifting, complicated dynamic between them and the other possible killer adds a real spark to their scenes together, especially during the final act when everything comes to a head.
“Confession of Murder” is not only one of the most atypical Korean serial killer films of late, but also one of the most enjoyable, and is far more fun than its potentially dark premise might suggest. Jung Byung Gil does a great job in enlivening the form with his considerable action talents, and the film serves as a great calling card for a man who is clearly a director well worth keeping an eye one.
Byeong-gil Jeong (director) / Byeong-gil Jeong (screenplay)
CAST: Won-yeong Choi
Jae-yeong Jeong … Detective Choi
Eun-ji Jo … Gang-Sook
Yeong-ae Kim … Han Ji-soo
Park Si-Hoo … Lee Doo-Suk