Confession of Murder or Naega Salinbeomida or 내가 살인범이다 (2012)
Confession of Murder or Naega Salinbeomida or 내가 살인범이다 (2012) makes a pleasingly dramatic start. It’s 2005. Our hero is drowning his sorrows in a bar when a masked man throws himself through the window to attack him. Recovering quickly from the surprise, there’s a terrific fight followed by a trademark chase in the rain. It’s always good for a director and scriptwriter Jung Byoung-Gil to make a statement of intent. No mater how cerebral this police procedural may get, there will always be a chance for fights and the occasional shooting. Anyway, our hero is left carrying a scar on his face to remind him of his run-in with a serial killer. Retreating ever further into the bottle, he views himself as an increasing failure as a detective.
This is Homicide Detective Choi Hyung-Goon (Jung Jae-Young) who, at his peak, was in charge of a major serial killer case. It was never solved. Then after the period of statutory liability has expired, Lee Doo-Suk (Park Shi Hoo) writes a book confessing to the murders. The news conference where he launches his book confessing to the murders is a nicely judged commentary on the role of the media. The author’s display of the bullet wound allegedly resulting from the shot fired by Detective Choi when they chased across roof-tops is guaranteed to grab everyone’s attention. When he starts to do the rounds of the parents of the girls he claims to have killed to show his remorse, the press follow and sales of the book are phenomenal. The question for the police, therefore, is whether the confession is real. A question that becomes all the more pressing when the author and the media come into the police station to greet the detective in charge.
The media, however, are anxious to get the alleged criminal and failed cop on to the same television show. If the cop kills the confessed murderer on a live show, the ratings will go through the roof. The television impresario played by Jang Gwang is magnificently capitalist. He truly understands the cult of celebrity and is out to exploit the opportunity to the maximum. There are two things going for him. The first is that the man making the confession is not only inherently newsworthy, he’s also rather beautiful. Vast numbers of women and teen girls are swooning over his good looks. Indeed, when the detective accuses him of being a fraud, we see the young girls outraged. They want their new hero to be the serial killer who used to go round killing young girls. The satire is moderately savage, charting the mindless irrationality of the cult that rapidly grows up around this admitted killer and the exploitation of this cult by the mainstream media to make millions of dollars profit.
Meanwhile, led by Han Ji-Soo (Kim Young-Ae), the mother of the last girl whose body was never found, the relatives plan their own quiet revenge. Except the manner of the kidnapping wins prizes for being one of the most amusing I’ve seen in years. It’s a complete masterpiece showing how amateur criminals are accident-prone when it comes to executing a plan and it’s worth seeing the film just for that sequence. The most dangerous of this group proves to be Choi Kang-Sook (Jo Eun-Ji). Her efforts with the crossbow prove highly effective. Mention must also be made of Jung Hae-Kyun who gives a performance of great physicality. He has terrific screen presence.
Taken overall, we have a wonderful film. Indeed, it’s one of the best of 2012. Although I think it rather obvious what’s going on, the mechanics of the plot are worked out with rigorous attention to detail. Absolutely everything you see has a purpose and builds up to a most satisfying emotional outcome in the epilogue. Park Shi Hoo smiles most convincingly as the man making the confession. That he manages to come over as sympathetic even when admitting to multiple murders is a significant triumph. Jung Jae-Young is also impressive as the detective slowly falling to pieces — a fall made all the more terrible when the flashbacks explain his personal history. Although revenge films can sometimes leave a sour taste in the mouth as you feel vigilanteism is being condoned by film-makers, this plays absolutely fair with everyone, both individual and state officials, operating within the law and upholding its principles. Indeed, one character goes above and beyond the ordinary call of duty to ensure the law is not broken (too much). Confession of Murder or Naega Salinbeomida or 내가 살인범이다 is a film you should go out of your way to see.
For those of you who are fans of Park Shi Hoo, there’s a fan site at http://parksihoo4u.com/