Review By: Christopher J. Wheeler
His face is covered with a white mask, his head by a maroon fisherman’s hat. He’s quick, skilled in close quarter combat and seems to, at this moment, have the upper hand over detective Choi (Jeong Jae-yeong). After slitting the throat of the woman whose store they burst through, a chase ensues. The city’s maze-like windings and bends are their playground, leading them up and around dingy back alleys as they scale any and all obstacles in their climb to the top. A rooftop standoff seems to mark the end of the madness, but the suspect jumps instead. Not to his death, but onto a neon advertisement that eventually gives way under his weight. Choi follows him down to the rain-soaked cracks of the city, but he’s lost the upper hand. The shadowy figure looms over him knife in hand and, after a few haunting words are passed, the cloaked figure slashes at Choi’s face giving him a permanent lob-sided smile. Defeated and bloody, detective Choi cups his face while firing wildly into the black void the suspect disappears down.
Jeong Byeong-gil’s CONFESSION OF MURDER starts off with all-cylinders blazing as the energetic, and at times perhaps a little over-indulgent, tracking camera shots relentlessly follow the hunt for this serial killer. The mysterious man has killed more than ten girls and remains at large, that is until the case’s fifteen-year statute of limitations passes. With the legal time frame on the case now up, the killer does what all megalomaniacs would do, he writes a book and confesses.
Lee Doo-seok (Park Si-hoo) doesn’t appear to be your average cold-blooded murderer, but that is exactly what he is claiming to be. His book launch is well-received, with its sales largely helped by Lee’s ridiculous good looks and his detailed knowledge of each of the cases (down to the bullet still stuck in his left shoulder that Detective Choi put in him that long and stormy night). His book launch is a huge success, and millions of copies are sold in record time, making him an over-night millionaire. Screaming high school girls adore him, the media can get enough of him, and, most disturbing to our broken detective, there is nothing anyone can do about it.
CONFESSION OF MURDER probes the fascinating question of what would happen if a killer came into the spotlight and laid claim to his deviant acts. With total freedom of prosecution, Lee presents his story and then basks in media’s adoring glare. Jeong’s intriguing premise challenge’s our suspension of disbelief to breaking point, but the desire to know more pulls us along regardless. Lee has chosen to probe the possibility of a killer coming willingly into the media’s glaze and, for the most part, its lure seems to override common sense and rationality in service of something darker.
Flaky plot points and sequences seem secondary to the film’s ability to implant a real twisted desire to know more, to consume this killer in all his glory and tales of wickedness. Lee’s sycophantic actions seem to fit into the ills of contemporary Korean society and their glamourizing of all things beautiful and clean-cut. However our scared detective is not convinced, and while the media circus continues, the families of the victims contemplate enacting their own brand of justice. Choi refuses to buy into Lee’s smug demeanour and spites him ever chance he gets. Haunted by their unfinished business, Choi remains vigilant in his efforts to try out wit Lee and his glorified re-entry into his life. Cautious and brooding, Choi waits and watches for his chance.
Despite its flirtations with probability and reason, CONFESSION OF MURDER is captivating and holds your attention as avidly as any sleazy celebrity show would. This surprised me, but between some poor acting, dodgy logic, and a number of hyperactive action sequences, the film kept pulling me alone whether I wanted to come or not. During which I was also constantly amused at the irony of Lee’s character and Park Si-hoo own pending rape case. Despite the charges on both characters, fans (particularly young woman) seem to want this attractive young man to live on in whatever capacity his chooses—regardless of what ills he may or may not committed.
CONFESSION OF MURDER will require you to mute a number of your cognitive facilities, perhaps too many for some. Its lure lies in the playing out of a serious unlikelihood that teases the imagination and numbs any attempt at rationality or even causality. That said, the film excels in feeding our disturbing fascination with events as the truth is slowly pealed back. CONFESSION OF MURDER doesn’t disappoint in terms of its pacing, tension and action-orientated indulgences, but ultimately struggled to find its own feet beneath the blur of narrative liberties and abandonment of logical progression.