Thursday 6 March 2008

H (2002)

Someone working on a rainy landfill site discovers a couple of corpses: a mother and new born baby. The mother apparently gave birth herself, cut the umbilical cord with her teeth and died of blood loss. Four days later, another corpse of a young mother is discovered on a bus, this time with the baby still holding onto life. There is a precedent for these murders, but the killer is in custody: a young man named Shin Hyun gave himself up ten months earlier after murdering six women, bringing the last with him in a bag as proof of his guilt. Is there a copycat or has Shin, who is on death row, hired a follower to continue his work and satisfy his particular urges by proxy?

Three detectives are assigned to the case, including Kim Mi Yeon, an intense young lady whose fiance had committed suicide after capturing Shin but letting him go, and Kang Tae Hyun, a headstrong and emotional young detective working his first murder case. Kang visits Shin a number of times in prison in scenes that were obviously inspired by those between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, but Shin's blissful calm is more reminiscent of Kevin Spacey's John Doe in Se7en, probably a much better comparison given the direction the plot takes. It's a memorable performance from Cho Seung-woo, affable and insightful for a young serial killer.

Kim is played by Yeom Jung-ah, a powerful young actress who won various awards for her next film, A Tale of Two Sisters, which I have on DVD and need to move up my priority schedule. She's a very capable lead, who knows she can command attention by effectively doing very little and reserves more revealing behaviour for more appropriate scenes. Kang is Jin-hee Ji, doing a decent job in his debut movie. His enthusiastic acting isn't a patch on Yeom's deliberate underacting though. The real counter to Yeom is Detective Park, the third man on the case. He's a wonderful drunk and a fun interrogator and he's played by Ji-ru Sung, the eldest of the three.

The story itself is the point though. It's an interesting one though it does stretch a little. The ending isn't entirely unsatisfying but it's a very eastern concept that completely wouldn't pass in the west. Here's one eastern film that at least won't get remade in Hollywood. The behind the camera work is capable though far from overdone. There are some very nicely shot scenes: plenty of both style and substance which is refreshing, but it doesn't shine as brightly as it could.

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