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Memories-of-Murder-dvd

1986 Gyunggi Province. The body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commences under similar circumstances. And in a country that had never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial murderer grow louder. A special task force is set up in the area, with two local detectives Park Doo-Man and Jo Young-Goo joined by a detective from Seoul who requested to be assigned to the case, Seo Tae-Yoon. Park personifies the policeman who goes with his instincts and his fists, bloodily challenging every small-time crook in the area to confess. In contrast, Seo pores over evidentiary documents related to the case and inevitably the clash of styles leads to tense rivalry. From the fact that not a single hair is ever found at the scene, Park takes off to search the area’s temples and public baths for men with pubic hair disease, while Seo finds a pattern in the evidence of women wearing red on a rainy day as the victim’s profile. On a rainy day, the detectives set up a trap in order to forestall another murder. The next day however, yet another woman is found murdered. The solution to the murders grows fainter and drives the detectives to ever greater despair.

I will go on record here to say this is probably the finest Korean movie I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterpiece. Powerful, gutwrenching, even humorous at times with a taut script, this movie about South Korea’s first ever serial killer is one that nobody will ever forget after watching it. It’s also based on a true story in which 3000 suspects were questioned and 1.8 million cops were involved according to the prologue. Despite the police’s best efforts, the killer was never found and is still at large in South Korea. It seemed the killer was calculated, meticulous and always one step ahead of the police in everything he did. The story begins in 1986 with the discovery of a woman’s body with her hands tied in a drainage culvert, this sets off a chain of events in which more victims turn up. Each victim has been strangled by their own stockings. The two local detectives on the case including their chief are clearly seen to be completely out of their depth. They also don’t seem to have a clue as to how to keep a crime scene clean until the forensic team arrive with kids and even tractors trampling over vital evidence. Enter Detective Seo Tae-Yun from Seoul who provides a different approach to the case. Instead of using brutality to coerce a confession out of suspects, he uses a more rational way of trying to find the killer. It’s inevitable that he and the local detectives clash. But even with Seo Tae-Yun on board with some clues being found, it becomes apparent that the police force is becoming desperate to nail this sadistic killer. Pinning their hopes on a man with smooth hands after a confession from a female victim who wasn’t killed and the fact that he sent a request for a song ‘Sad Letter’ to be played on the radio on every night a woman is killed, the 3 detectives begin to investigate him. With some evidence sent to the US for verification because South Korea didn’t have DNA testing at the time, they hope that it will prove without a shadow of a doubt that this is their man.

memories-of-murder screenshot

The story is so engrossing and compelling. It sucks you right into the investigation and you definitely feel the frustration of the detectives building up as more bodies turn up. It might not have the Hollywood theatrics of Se7en or The Silence Of The Lambs but don’t believe for a second that this movie is inferior to them in any way shape or form. The movie also gives a good history lesson about the state of South Korea during the mid 80’s when it was still under a military dictatorship with martial law being declared at night with an air-raid siren going off, social unrest happening on the streets and schools participating in an emergency rehearsal in case of an attack by the North. Director Bong Joon-ho has crafted a fantastic suspensful thriller with beautiful haunting cinematography and an amazing soundtrackwhich keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the 2 hours or so running time. If I had to pick out highlights from the movie it would come down to the fantastic chase scene during the night and a brilliant free-for-all brawl at a restaurant as tensions boil over from one of the detectives who has been suspended due to overuse of violence on a suspect. Don’t expect to find a happy ending to the story though there is an intriguing final scene at the location of the first murder.

The acting from Song Kang-ho, Kim Roe-ha and Kim Sang-kyung as the detectives on the case is excellent and it’s sad to see them fail in their task to being the killer to task despite giving their all to the case day after day. It’s interesting to see how the relationship between the 2 country detectives and the city detective develop as the story progresses. Initially there is a rivalry between them due to their differing styles of investigating – the country pair are either lazy or plain stupid as they blatantly frame suspects and play the good cop/bad cop routine in order to get a confession but all three men become bound together by frustration as each clue they find brings them no closer to catching the real suspect.

Memories Of Murder is an unmissable movie. It’s an exceptional movie in all aspects and I have no hesitation in highly recommending it.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Sex Is Zero 2 (2007)

Sex Is Zero 2

Law student Eun-sik and swimming champ Kyung-ah are a couple in a university whose relationship has been solid for three years, Eun-sik struggles to proceed to the ‘next step’ with Kyung-ah, and despite the help and support of his friends, does not manage to get her into bed. Making things worse is Gi-joo, a current prosecuting attorney and Kyung-ah’s old boyfriend, who keeps interfering with the couple. Eun-sik fears that Kyung-ah will turn her back on him and is determined to get her back…

The Korean equivalent to American Pie returns with a sequel due to the popularity of the first movie and reuniting the majority of the cast. Even though the story and some of the jokes have been recycled, it is still a very funny movie and IMO better than the first. With director Yoon Je Kyun coming back to helm this movie, he made the point of making sure the bar was raised from the first movie. This means there are more gross out gags to enjoy such as when 2 of Eun-sik’s friends stick a lollipop up the arse of a person who is drunk and sleeping in his room. When they pull it out it falls on the floor and who should come in to the room at the time to pick it up and put it in his mouth is Eun-sik himself or when he is caught dry-humping a statue whilst completely drunk on the campus grounds with an erection which shocks several women! If that’s the kind of humour you like then you’ll find this movie a lot of fun to watch. It outdoes American Pie with it’s grossness. There’s a lot of risque content as well with nudity and sex. The plot which focuses on the bumps in the road that Eun-sik and Kyung-ah encounter in their relationship is great and they come across as a sweet and likeable couple. Eun-sik belongs to the K-1 MMA university team whilst Kyung-ah is the star player in the swimming team and we get to see plenty of humorous antics between both teams. It’s an excuse basically to see plenty of girls in skimpy bathing costumes which will no doubt please many male viewers! Naturally it’s Eun-sik that gets into trouble a lot with Kyung-ah due to various things that happen over the course of the movie – most of it due to his habit of getting drunk. The fun does disappear in the final 30 mins as the movie turns more to drama as we get to see just how the couple met in hospital for the first time, why Kyung-ah has been reluctant in having sex with Eun-sik and it looks like he has to give up on Kyung-ah due to her interfering mother who insists that she go to America with Gi-joo to have a better life with him. I was glad it didn’t go down the dark road of the first movie but there are plenty of tears shed. It’s heartbreaking as Eun-sik tells Kyung-ah that he wants to break up with her in a bar. As he doesn’t tell her a valid enough reason for why he wants to finish, Kyung-ah desperately tries to cling on to the relationship. It is only after a nasty riposte from Eun-sik about Kyung-ah’s past that makes her walk out saying she doesn’t want to see him ever again. The realisation dawns on him on what he’s done and the viewer sees Eun-sik with his head in his arms, slumped down and crying hard. You will feel for him. Thankfully the story gives us a heartwarming ending that leaves everybody satisfied and happy. The cast look like they had a ball making this movie which can be seen in the out-takes during the end credits. Comedian Lim Chang Jung and Song Ji Hyo are excellent as Eun-sik and Kyung-ah.

Sex Is Zero 2 screenshot

If you’re a person that’s not offended by gross out comedy and loved the first Sex Is Zero movie then you’re bound to find this movie rather entertaining and hilarious.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Byung-Gu is an ordinary young man living in Korea. He believes that all of the earth’s social ills are the evil doings of aliens. That’s why he knows that unless he can meet the prince from Andromeda before the total lunar eclipse, Planet Earth will be in grave danger. In order to meet the prince, he must find an extraterrestrial living on earth. So Byung-Gu kidnaps the most logical suspect, Kang Man-shik, the president and CEO of Yoojae Chemical Company. Thus starts the battle between Byung-Gu who’s trying to uncover a secret alien plot to destroy the earth and CEO Kang Man-Shik, who thinks Byung-Gu’s nuts and is trying desperately to escape. Only four hours until the total lunar eclipse. When the eclipse is over, the time will run out for Planet Earth. Can Byung-Gu singlehandedly save the planet?

This is a very interesting Korean movie which combines many genres into a potent mix all of it’s own. It’s one of those movies that only comes along every once in a while which is so unusual and unique that it just impresses you. The blend of comedy, psychological thriller, horror, police drama and satire works brilliantly. It never fails to surprise you and the movie easily switches from comedy in one scene to a nasty torture moment in a dank basement with a lot of blood in the next. The first 15 mins will give you an idea whether this movie is something you like or not. It might seem a little strange but once you get into the plot and the characters you’ll immerse yourself into this fantastic movie. Don’t let the DVD cover lull you into thinking this is some kind of wacky comedy because it is far from being that. The thrill in watching this movie lies in where it’s going to take you. It’s best to come in with an open mind, sit back and just enjoy the wild ride that unfolds. There are many surprises, some twists and original ideas thrown in. It isn’t a movie for everyone though and it’s certainly not to be seen by families. Some people will be turned off by the graphic violence and situations that take place but if you’re used to watching anything by Takashi Miike or Park Chan-wook then you should be fine with this movie. Director Jang Jun-Hwan paces this movie perfectly and the ‘is he or isn’t he an alien’ question is finally resolved at the conclusion. You’ll never be able to hear the song ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ in the same way again after watching this movie.

The acting is incredible with an amazing performance by Ha-kyun Shin as Byung-Gu. Here we have an individual who is convinced that aliens have infiltrated this planet and have changed their genetics to resemble a human being that it consumes him. The aliens can apparently communicate back to their home planet telepathically by their hair strands! He sees it as his quest to thwart and overpower these aliens as he believes they were responsible for making his mother ill who is lying comatose in a hospital. He has kidnapped many individuals before because he believed they were aliens (13 before targeting Kang Man-shik) and taken them back to his mountain top lair where he straps them into a chair and begins torturing them for information on their true origins. Byung-Gu thinks the aliens will be able to withstand the punishment he gives them. It will be easy for the viewer to tag Byung-Gu as being mentally unstable. Given his violent behaviour towards Kang Man-Shik, you will still gradually begin to like and sympathise with Byung-Gu.

Funny, tense, horrifying and inevitably tragic,  Save The Green Planet is a thought provoking, challenging, disturbing but ultimately a very special and outstanding movie that shouldn’t be missed out by Asian movie fans. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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1990. A number of children suddenly disappear. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense selects an elite group of scientists for a top-secret mission. Then, 30 years later … The year is 2020 on a reunified Korean Peninsula. A string of murders is committed against retired scientists. The Special Investigations (SI) unit staffed by a crack team from the former North and South Koreas and outfitted with the latest technology is brought in to investigate. The killer, however, far from being deterred, taunts them with a signature pendant at every murder scene. In an act of devilish boldness he even kidnaps the son of the investigation team’s leader, Seok. Then, in a stakeout, Seok manages to shoot dead one of the murderer’s underlings. Cloaked in the man’s clothes, however, is Seok’s son, now dead by the hand of his father … Meanwhile, in the megapolis Intercity, the chief of police is kidnapped right in front of his heavy security detail and the culprit leaves another pendant at the scene. The chief’s daughter, Hui-su, a talented criminal psychologist quickly joins the investigation to find her father. Soon, Seok discovers that he and Hui-su share an uncanny bond…

This movie had a lot of potential to be a very good movie but in the end it was all a big mess. The filmmakers have tried to make a Hollywood type blockbuster but it fails miserably. It looks great visually (probably the only good thing I can say about this movie) and the cityscapes with its dark wet neon streets will remind many of Blade Runner but the script is quite confusing and it goes on for way too long. At 2 hours long it just drags. There doesn’t seem to be any coherent structure in the story. I nearly fell asleep by the time the credits came up begging for the movie to finish, that’s how bored I was with it. Even the numerous gunfights in the movie lacked any excitement. There’s too much techno-babble about genetics and cloning going on and the pacing of the movie is all over the show. The plot doesn’t have a lot to offer and there’s no character development. As such you don’t really care for the characters at all because they’re all dull. The acting is poor with many of the actors sleepwalking in their roles with no emotion showing on their faces. They don’t show any passion or enthusiasm in their performances. The majority of the cast look like they didn’t want to be in the movie. This was director Jeong Yun-Su’s debut behind the camera and it becomes obvious quite quickly that he has no idea how to put together a decent sci-fi actioner. I have no idea if the other 3 movies he’s directed since this one are any better?

Overall, some nice special effects and stylish production values isn’t enough to keep me interested if the story isn’t that good. Mediocre. Give it a wide berth.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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The Guard Post (2008)

Aka GP506

In the heavily fortified DMZ between the two Koreas, the South’s Guard Post 506 has experienced mystifying events on a cataclysmic scale. 20 soldiers are reported dead, leaving one sole survivor at GP 506. Higher level military authorities scramble to uncover the mysteries behind these deaths and appoint Sergeant Noh, considered the best in the military, to lead the investigation. The deaths are particularly sensitive, because one of the victims is thought to be Lt. Yoo, the son of the Army’s Chief of General Staff. Making things more difficult for Sergeant Noh is that the Army has given him until 6 AM to finish his investigation. The investigation group arrive at GP 506 under torrential rains, resulting in the investigative group becoming trapped within GP 506 themselves. They find a comatose Corporal Kang with an axe in his hand. A video tape is also discovered of Corporeal Kang stating his intentions to kill the entire unit at GP 506. Then, Lieutenant Yoo is found alive but severely traumatized. The minutes tick away, 6 AM is quickly approaching , while the investigation team at GP 506 uncover even more startlingly secrets.

From the director of R-Point comes another army platoon in peril horror movie. Although I found R-Point to be rather muddled, this movie is a lot better and far more entertaining although the running time has been pushed too far at 2 hours long. It could have been cut by a good 30 mins and it wouldn’t have affected the movie at all, in fact it would have made the story run more smoothly. Don’t be misled by some people or the trailer into believing this is a zombie movie because it isn’t. The movie starts with a bang as the soldiers find the lone survivor of a massacre at GP506 all bloodied and holding an axe. From the opening frame, the story is tense and nerve racking as the viewer is gradually shown the horrifying secrets of the base and what is happening to the soldiers. The story is well written and cleverly structured with some flashbacks weaved into the main plot that keeps the viewer enthralled. There’s an oppresive and menacing air to the guard post location and the director uses light and darkness to create an atmosphere of dread to the viewer. Thankfully there are no cheap scares included and while some Asian horrors build up to a somewhat disappointing conclusion, I can safely say that nobody will be disappointed by the suspense filled and gripping finale in this movie. The second half of the movie is just an unrelenting trip into terror. As this is a horror movie there’s a fair amount of blood spilling with many unpleasant situations that make this quite a visceral experience. It has a very good balance of using psychological scares and gore to create one of the best Asian survival horror in recent times.

Director Kong Su Chang has come up with a great horror movie which delivers good acting from the cast, nice direction and a solid atmosphere. Asian horror fans will definitely find much to enjoy here.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Young-Gun is a virgin who always tries to do the right thing. He wanders around the city every night as protector of the people. Nobody asked Young-Gun to do this and he doesn’t get paid, but he risks his life for the common good and also picks up trash along the way. One evening, he hears a woman screaming. After fighting with 3 mysterious men, Young-Gun saves her and takes her back to his house. Her name is Ha-Monica. Young-Gun has a crush on her, but she is an alien who has been sent to Earth to increase her species although he doesn’t know that. Before dawn, she has to find the best sperm and become impregnated. Young-Gun has taken a vow of chastity until marriage, so he can’t give the alien what she wants. Throughout the long night the beautiful alien tries to get his sperm. Can the thirty something virgin Young-Gun overcome tempation from the alien? Can Young-Gun save Planet Earth?

Before I do the review let me just say that there is no alien bikini in this movie at all. An alien female in some underwear maybe but no bikini! Got it, OK let’s get on with the review! I came into this movie thinking it was some kind of comedy and whilst the first half of the movie has some comedy it moves into darker territory by the 2nd half with some blood being spilled. You may have read the movie summary thinking this is like the sci-fi horror movie SPECIES and you’d be right about that except there’s no nudity, nasty horror or any action. The movie is a bit of a mixed bag and considering it only runs for 75 mins that may have been a blessing in disguise. The majority of the movie is set in Young-Gun’s apartment. Both Ha-Monica and Young-Gun are quite awkward around each other at first with Young-Gun really shy as he’s never had a woman in his apartment before. A game of jenga soon settles their nerves. The by-now flirty behaviour by Ha-Monica on Young-Gun progresses into something very sexual as she uses her feminine ways to try and get him to have sex with her. It’s quite funny seeing Young-Gun being sexually tormented by Ha-Monica. Which hot blooded male wouldn’t get turned on by the very beautiful alien but Young-Gun is adamant not to break his vow of chastity. The tone of the movie so far had been lightweight and fun but then it veers dramatically into a battle between the two as Ha-Monica resorts to various torture methods by tying Young-Gun up to extract the sperm she requires. She tries to rape him and even attempts a blowjob which results in her mouth being bloody. It goes even further into the dark side when Young-Gun breaks free and repeatedly punches Ha-Monica in the face thanks to a flashback sequence which showed that Young-Gun had suffered abuse at the hands of his father when he was younger. The torture by Ha-Monica has triggered something inside Young-Gun reminding him of the past and he snaps. It’s quite disturbing seeing this young woman being smacked about and badly treated. I don’t know if seeing the flashback sequence is supposed to make us feel sorry for his violent behaviour but I thought it was a bit too much. What’s more strange is after Young-Gun comes to his senses and sees the bloodied face and unconscious body of Ha-Monica on the floor of his apartment he decides to have sex with her triggering her pregnancy. The movie ends on a weird note with the alien offspring which has grown into a male adult and looking like a younger version of Young-Gun in the space of a few hours somehow managing to change Young-Gun into an old man who dies. There’s no resolution of any kind and I just found it all a big cop-out.

There’s no denying that Ha Eun-jeong as Ha-Monica is a very attractive woman and the fact that she spends around half of the movie in her underwear will no doubt find many men enjoying this visual treat. Young-Gun as played by Hong Young-Guen on the other hand is a strange little character. Why he goes around the city being a vigilante crimefighter is never explained or why he has to don a silly Mario moustache on his face. It can be said that he’s a card short of a full pack in the head! There are two quite good fight sequences featuring Young-Gun kicking the crap out of 3 secret service agents who are after Ha-Monica.

Overall I found this movie to be a bit flat, unbalanced and very deceiving for people who might come into this movie thinking it’s a comedy when it becomes a nasty exercise in violence during the 2nd half. It does raise a few chuckles during the first 30 mins but that tone quickly evaporates soon after. It had the potential to become a great little comedy movie had it not been for the story changing from light to dark.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Bad Guy (2001)

Thug Han-Gi is walking along the streets of Seoul when he claps his eyes on pretty college girl Sun-hwa sitting on a bench and waiting for her boyfriend. He is obviously smitten with her and walks over and sits down beside her, not saying a word but just observing her. Sun-hwa notices that he is staring at her and moves away to another bench. Her boyfriend arrives and Sun-hwa says something about Han-Gi to him. Just as both are about to leave, Han-Gi grabs Sun-hwa and forcefully kisses her as her boyfriend grabs a steel bin and continously smashes it against Han-Gi’s back but he doesn’t flinch. After he finishes kissing her, he tries to leave but is stopped by a couple of Korean soldiers who try and make him apologise to Sun-hwa. He doesn’t so the soldiers beat the crap out of him. As a parting gesture, Sun-hwa spits on his face before leaving with her boyfriend. You’d think that Han-Gi would have learned a lesson here but he still wants Sun-hwa so he decides to follow her the next day. Sun-hwa makes a fatal mistake of tearing a page out of a book at a store and stealing a big fat wallet that’s been left behind in the store (it’s all a big setup to snare Sun-hwa). All of this is done whilst Han-Gi is watching. The guy who has lost his wallet finds out about Sun-hwa stealing his wallet and corners her in the toilet. He wants $10,000 of his money back but she can’t afford that so he roughly takes her to a loan shark to sign an agreement. She has to pay the loan back by using her body with Han-Gi forcing her into prostitution. She tries to escape but has nowhere to go. Through a two way mirror Han-Gi watches as Sun-hwa loses her virginity to a forceful client. Will Sun-hwa manage to thwart her captors and escape?

This excellent movie from South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk delves into the underworld of prostitution but also the unconventional love between a pimp and a prostitute. It’s an original story which is well told with some fascinating characters who display the good and bad side of humanity. It’s quite a dark story with some sex, voyeurism and numerous acts of violence thrown in. The transformation of a young innocent woman into a cheap $50 whore is sad and believable and the fact that she starts to enjoy her work makes it a little bit heartbreaking. Possibly some viewers might find it harder to understand why Sun-hwa would actually fall in love with the man who forced her into prostitution in the first place. It’s all about a relationship that becomes emotionally dependant between the two.

The viewer will hate Han-Gi at first but will gradually be forced to like him at some stage. Jae-hyeon Jo gives a superb performance as Han-Gi and the fact that he doesn’t have any dialogue except a couple of lines near the end makes it even better. You’ll wonder why he never speaks and then when he does speak you’ll understand why he keeps quiet. It’s through his eyes we can tell the way he’s feeling and not by any words. Seo Won is also fantastic as the college girl turned whore Sun-hwa. A very beautiful young actress who captures the downfall of her character so well.

There are some questions arising from the movie such as why is nobody looking for Sun-hwa. Surely her boyfriend, her college or even her parents would notice that she is missing yet we never see scenes of any policemen looking for her. Have they forgotten about her? It’s odd. Also why doesn’t she try harder to escape as she gets plenty of chances.

Bad Guy is a gem of a movie with many twists and turns before it ends on an unbelievable note. You can’t go wrong with any Kim Ki-Duk movie, they’re always very entertaining. This movie might not be to everyone’s taste with its subject matter as it can be a little bit uncomfortable to watch. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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