Film / Memories of Murder

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Memories of Murder is a 2003 South Korean drama directed by Byong Joon-ho (The Host, Barking Dogs Never Bite) based on the still unsolved serial murders that took place in Hwaseong between 1986 and 1991. The film follows police detectives Park Doo-Man (Kang-Ho Song) and Seo Tae-Yoon (Sang-kyung Kim) in their investigation to track down and apprehend the killer.

This film provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Detective Park and detective Cho, both of whom are willing to rough up suspects if it means getting a confession out of them.
  • Bishōnen: The factory worker, who is a major suspect.
  • Black Comedy
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a scene at the same corn field.
  • Bound and Gagged: All of the victims.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: While Seo investigates one of the crime scenes there is a man caught masturbating. He becomes a suspect and they try to beat him into a confession. But Seo determines that he is not guilty and insists that they try to capture the real killer.
  • Dies Wide Open: All of the victims.
  • Distant Finale: A Time Skip from 1987 to 2003 reveals that Park has a family and has left the police force to sell juicers, but is still haunted by the unsolved murders.
  • Downer Ending: Made worse by the fact that it's Truth in Television.
  • Flipping the Bird: Det. Park shows his fist, with his thumb stuck between the index and middle fingers, to some heckling kids. This is an offensive gesture roughly equivalent to the American raised middle finger.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The killer is never apprehended.
  • Freudian Trio: The three detectives working on the case, with the Id, Ego, and Superego being Cho, Park, and Seo respectively.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: The detectives try this with Kwang-ho, their first suspect. Park is nice and polite while Cho literally kicks Kwang-ho around. This is particularly disturbing as Kwang-ho is mentally retarded.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The rain pours down as they find the last victim, after Seo let a suspect slip surveillance.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Detective Seo, who is originally calm and rational and disapproving of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique employed by Park and Cho, becomes more and more unstrung over the course of the film, as the body count piles up. He snaps when he loses a suspect whom he was keeping under surveillance, and a school girl he had previously spoken with gets killed. He's about to shoot the suspect when Park comes charging up, with the DNA report from America revealing that the suspect's sample doesn't match. Seo refuses to believe it—"this paper lies"—and tries to kill the suspect anyway. Park knocks his arm, saving the suspect's life.
  • Hidden Villain: Combined with The Faceless.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Done with the man they catch masturbating near a crime scene.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used liberally by the police, especially Cho. Though it doesn't help much.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Averted. Cho gets stabbed in the leg by a plank of wood with a nail attached to it. We see him limping around afterwards, and eventually his shin has to be amputated.
  • Karaoke Box: The detectives unwind in one.
  • Karma Houdini: The killer, whoever he may have been.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Detective Cho has a habit of drop-kicking his suspects. It is ironic that he ends up having his leg amputated.
  • Match Cut: A pretty twisted one. The police are circled around a coroner's table, looking at the body of a murder victim. The film cuts to meat on a grill at a Korean barbecue restaurant.
  • Only Sane Man: Detective Seo tries to mount a reasonable investigation into the case, but has to put up with two bumbling partners and a mismanaged, under-equipped police force. However, the stresses of the case wear him down, and he's nearly driven to shoot a suspect who may or may not be the killer.
    • Shin, the detectives' supervisor, also counts as he's trying to keep the detectives focused on solving the case instead of bickering with each other.
  • Perp Sweating: See Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique above. It never works. The suspects only tell the police what they want to hear.
  • Porn Stash: The cops find the masturbator's stash hidden away in his home.
  • Rabid Cop: A common theme of this film. Detective Park Doo-man and Detective Cho Yong-koo both brutally try to beat and torture confessions out of their suspects, one of whom was a mentally handicapped young man, and get very few results. They're contrasted with Detective Seo Tae-Yoon, who uses logic and reason in his investigation, but by the end of the movie, is driven to becoming almost as bad as them.
  • Rape as Drama: The murderer raped his victims before killing them.
  • Scenery Porn: There are many landscape shots of the Korean countryside.
  • Serial Killer
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Detective Park, who claims that he can instinctively tell who's a bad guy.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: In the end, a young girl describes a man who is more than likely the killer, and says that he looked "ordinary" and had a "normal" face. This suggests even further that the handsome Hyeon-gyu Park really was innocent.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: To this day.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Although compared to the Hollywood standards of anything "based on a true story", it's almost a documentary.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Seo and Park's supervisor pukes into a bucket at a party.

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