The Big Scene (aka Murder Take One, 2005) Movie Review

“The Big Scene” is the latest film from Korean director Jang Jin, best known for the abstract gangster comedy “Guns and Talks”, in which he attempted to present a new spin on the usual hitman movie formula. Here, Jin does the same, trying to reinvigorate the traditional detective thriller by working in the cynical theme of modern society’s obsession with the media and by infusing the film with a decidedly offbeat sense of humour. This in itself is nothing new, as many action film makers have chosen to work in social commentary through a critical presentation of the media, as seen most recently in Johnnie To’s “Breaking News”. However, Jin’s film takes a different, slightly more satirical route, adopting the narrative format of television crime drama in a cinematic manner in an effort to produce something fresh and inventive.

The film begins in familiar fashion, with the discovery of a woman’s body in a hotel room, apparently stabbed to death. The police already have the prime suspect in custody, Kim Young Hoon (the ever twitchy Shin Ha Kyun, “Save the Green Planet”) who was spotted visiting the victim earlier in the evening. The police investigation, led by prosecutor Choi Yeon Hee (Cha Seung Won, “Ghost House”) takes place in a special custom built office where every aspect of the case can be filmed for a television program. Unfortunately, the producers of the program serve only to interfere with and impede the police, and it soon becomes clear that the case is not as simple as it first appeared.

The narrative is closely patterned after television programs such as “24” and “C.S.I”, basing itself around a gradual investigation and revelation of evidence with frequent referrals to the time elapsed since the murder. Jin takes this one step further by dividing the film into several chapters, based around interviews, testimony and so on, giving the story a very clear and deliberate structure. Jin also makes full use of the television theme, inserting various segments of interviews and audience debate over the progress of the case.

Whilst this is vaguely innovative, it has the unfortunate effect of making the plot feel rather episodic. Since the narrative makes a few odd leaps in terms of investigative logic, the viewer quite often feels left behind, and as such the plot never really engages beyond anecdotal interest. At times, this makes for quite confusing and frustrating viewing, and at times the director himself seems unsure of the film’s identity and purpose. This is especially true with the bizarre and hilarious climax, which comes completely out of left field and is either incredibly ill-judged, or evidence of a surreal sense of humour on the part of the director.

Although Jin never allows “The Big Scene” to become dull, with a running time of two hours it nevertheless feels far too long, and is quite blatantly padded out with a great deal of filler material. The actual investigation itself feels secondary to the strange supporting cast, most of who appear for brief sketches that have little to do with the actual plot. Whilst some of these are genuinely amusing, they eventually become frustrating, detracting from any tension which may have been inherent in the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity.

To be fair, “The Big Scene” does have some good moments, especially during the early interrogation scenes. The plot as a whole is reasonably intelligent, with some intricate plotting and amusingly devious character motivations. Ironically, it is with these traditional elements of the detective thriller that the film is most successful, and which it would have benefited from developing further. There is an intriguing mystery at the heart of the plot, which is sadly smothered by Jin’s determined efforts to create something hip and modern. Overall, “The Big Scene” feels incoherent, being neither one thing nor the other, and offering little more than mild entertainment as a result.

Jin Jang (director) / Jin Jang (screenplay)
CAST: Seung-won Cha …. Choi Yeon-gi
Jeong-ah Park …. Han Mu-suk
Gu Shin
Ha-kyun Shin …. Kim Young-hun

Buy Murder Take One on DVD