From Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-Ho, the classic Memories of Murder is based on Korean’s first real serial killer who committed his murders from 1986 – 199 until they were caught in 2019. Originally released in 2003, Memories tells the story of a big city detective from Seoul who has to team up with 2 inept small city cops in order to track down an elusive murderer who plays games with both his victims and the officers that try to bring him down.
Memories of Murder centers around two dimwitted cops, Park and Cho. Totally unprepared for this type of case, a big city detective named Seo has to join them. A detective story at its core, you get to see how the horrifying 5-year murder spree played on the psyche of these officers. As the killer plays games with them, they are increasingly driven to unethical interrogation methods in order to find the killer, torturing and intimidating any suspect they can get their hands on.
At first, having been pulled in to lead the investigation, Seo looks down on Park and Cho’s methods as idiotic, desperate, and barbaric. However, as the killer continues to toy with him, Seo begins to act in desperation with his suspects in the same way. In this way, Memories showcases how this allusive serial danced around every detective on the case for years and the psychological effect that this had on those who were pursuing him.
Personally, I enjoyed Memories of Murder greatly. Bong Joon-ho thoroughly tells the stories surrounding the investigation and gives insight as to how the limited forensic technology of the time and the lack of preparedness of the detectives allowed the killer to get away for so long. (In real life, the killer’s name is Lee Choon-jae, having confessing to his crimes in 2019. Though, because he had passed the statue of limitations, he is a free man.)
[Caution: Spoilers] Towards the end of the film, Park goes back to the old site of the first killings and runs into a girl. She proceeds to tell him that there was a man earlier who was revisiting for nostalgia purposes. When he realizes that this girl must have run into the killer, the camera zooms in on his face, eyes glaring at the camera. For Park, the obsession is unending as he uses his eye detector test to spot the killer, potentially in the audience of the film itself. [Spoilers end]
Overall, the rerelease of Memories of Murder did great in retelling the classic story. The film features a great dynamic from the trio of cops and shows their psychological struggle through
Memories of Murder is available on VOD on Friday, October 23rd, 2020.