Classic Review – Memories of Murder (2003)

Title – Memories of Murder (2003)

Director – Bong Joon Ho (Parasite)

Cast – Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, Roe-ha Kim, Jae-ho Song

Plot – Based on a series of real-life grisly murders that rocked a rural Korean community during the civil upheaval in the mid-80’s, as the frustrating cases haunt the lead investigator Detective Park Doo-man (Kang-ho Song) and his team.

“There’s a reason people say I have shaman’s eyes”

Review by Eddie on 17/09/2020

While he hit the big time with his multi-Oscar winning masterpiece of original film-making with this year’s Best Picture recipient Parasite, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho has been going about his business of directional genius for a number of years leading up to his Academy Awards triumph.

The Host, Mother and the initially underappreciated Snowpiercer are all films that could only be born from a masterful hand behind the camera but one of Ho’s crowning achievements came in just his second feature length film, the based on a true story Memories of Murder.

Feeling absolutely like a godfather of sorts to David Fincher’s beloved serial killer epic Zodiac (a film which must surely have been inspired by Ho’s tone and style in this film), Memories is a police procedural that values quieter moments over gun fights and brawls (even if there’s more fly kicks here than you may’ve bargain for) as Ho examines the emotional toll the investigation into a series of grisly rapes and murders has on the police charged with tracking down the victims killer.

Set in the more rural surrounds of South Korea during a national civil upheaval in the mid-late 80’s, Memories starts out in typical Ho fashion with a mix of dark humor and outlandish characters but it slowly but surely morphs into something else much more contemplative and touching, much like the evolution of its main figure Detective Park Doo-man played by Parasite MVP Kang-ho Song.

Initially an abrasive and almost idiotic protagonist, the potentially gifted Doo-man isn’t a character we initially warm to but thanks to Ho’s refreshing script and ability to draw us further and further into the mind games and cat and mouse like detective work going on around the case, Doo-man becomes a genuinely engaging figure, one that leads us to a haunting final scene that may not be what audiences expect, but one that perfectly fits what Ho is trying to achieve with his exploration of this case.

Filmed for under $3 million USD, Memories is one of the best examples of the modern era when it comes to low-budget foreign film, so well put together and refined is this piece that many Hollywood products of a similar ilk would pail in comparison and while there are at times feelings as though not everything is given the time it deserves when there’s so much ground to cover, when Memories clicks into gear, it provides some of the best detective/mystery cinema of the 2000’s.

Final Say – 

If Parasite had you clambering for more off-kilter and unpredictable cinema from the mastermind that is Bong Joon Ho, Memories of Murder should be your first port of call.

4 1/2 out of no where fly kicks out of 5 

4 responses to “Classic Review – Memories of Murder (2003)

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