I am a very forgetful person, not quite to the point of communicating solely through post-it notes scattered around the house, but forgetful enough that there’s a nail by my front door in which my office key hangs. If I forget to hang up my office key when I get home…well, I’ve locked myself out of my office the next day. -And for those who are wondering why I don’t simply hook my key to my car keys, it’s on a lanyard because my office automatically locks after I leave, and I would always forget my key if it were not strapped to my person. My extensive fugue states have led me to discover the following in my pockets:
- Various portals of sorts
- train stubs from several years ago
- foreign coins
- jellybeans, and I don’t eat jellybeans. But I do love the idea of random people dropping jellybeans in my pockets to fuck with me.
- my office key
But finding stuff in my pockets is the best part of my forgetfulness. There’s nothing better than finding a $20 bill that’s probably been there since you first purchased those pants in 2011. So considering this, I really do appreciate a film like Byung-gil Jung’s Confession of Murder (Nae-ga sal-in-beom-i-da). An upturned pocket-type of film that manages to amalgamate noir elements with: car chase sequences, a whodunit, thrillers, spunky journalists, venomous snake attacks, and lots of scenes with crossbows. In other words, If someone wanted film likenesses, I could easily reduce the film to–Ace in the Hole meets The French Connection meets Robin Hood: Men in Tights meets Snakes on a Plane.
If you started watching Confession of Murder thinking that you were about to watch a coherent, restrained detective thriller, please stop watching. Jung’s over-the-top stylistic and narrative choices bleed into every scene. While I believe that the action sequences are exaggerated on purpose, it doesn’t make them any less annoying (or hilariously fun, depending on the sequence).
Confession of Murder focuses on a listless detective–Choi Hyeong-goo (Jae-yeong Jeong)–who awakens from his stupor after a serial killer announces himself to the public by publishing a tell-all account of his murders. The film begins in 2005, 15 years from the day the last murder was discovered. Note: At the time, South Korea had a 15-year statute of limitations in place for first-degree murder (it was then changed to 25 years, and ultimately abolished in 2015). Unable to prosecute Lee Doo-seok (Shi-Hoo Park), Detective Choi is understandably furious that Doo-seok is now making a profit on the murders that he claims to have committed, especially since Detective Choi was the main detective assigned to those murders.
Confession of Murder plays on the classic pairing between detective and killer, pitting them against each other in the public arena. While films usually focus on the chase (and this film certainly does that as well) between these two types of characters, Jung opts to comment on another intricately-linked relationship–South Korean media and the frenzied fan clubs which work to reinforce the country’s obsession with beauty and prop up public figures undeserving of adulation.
Ok, for those who are not convinced to see this film yet, need I remind you that the film encompasses all the shit one could possibly throw at the wall: yes, it has a secret society, a woman with a crossbow, and a man who sics snakes on people.
From the opening sequence, the viewer understands that Detective Choi is emotionally and physically marked (the killer leaves a lasting scar as a parting gift, which is brought up continuously throughout the film). This is a funny touch when one considers the initial pairing between Choi and Doo-seok. Doo-seok is soon idolized for his handsome, K-pop-approved appearance, and people are quick to forgive his past…um murders of 10+ women (har har, if I was convinced that this film was a feminist commentary, I would laugh heartily, but I’m not convinced). And Choi’s frustration only grows when Doo-seok’s fame increases as he continues his apology press tour. Of course, one soon finds out that Choi has a personal connection to one of the murders, and this whole vendetta assumes more meaning.
So I (perhaps naively) thought this was going to be a straight detective thriller with some welcome commentary on the popularity of true crime. Oh, how wrong I was! In one hilarious scene, it goes from *detective being taunted by killer* to…a snake lunging at a man, only to be stopped mid-air by an expertly-shot arrow. Then the film switches narratives to reveal a secret society comprised of family members of the killer’s victims who have made it their mission to kill Doo-seok. Insert: crossbows, snakes, knife-man, elaborate kidnaping schemes, etc. Sure, sure, sure. This works somehow.
But despite the time devoted to the above characters, Confession of Murder does not really care about the secret society, Detective Choi, Doo-seok, or the true killer, it cares about how media fashions and controls a person’s outlook. The television station responsible for hosting the “debate” between Choi, Doo-seok, and shocker of shocks…the real killer, is more worried about accidentally airing profanity than by encouraging the growing celebrity of a serial killer. Choi’s mother cares more about his inappropriate language than by the mental trauma potentially caused by being confronted with the killer who eluded him for years. Reporters (albeit mostly female ones) ask Doo-seok questions pertaining to skin regimens, rather than questions related to the murders. Members of Doo-seok’s fan clubs desperately try to re-write the narrative when they discover that he is in fact not the murderer. And it is this aspect of the film which is the most enjoyable.