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Charles S. Dutton,
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In Seoul, parts not matching of severed copses of three men are found in cars and bags left in public spaces. Detective Cho, who is under investigation of the Internal Affairs, is assigned to lead the investigation with his team. When the identities of the men are discovered, the police finds that the artist Su-Yeon Chae, who lives with her friend Seungmin Oh, had been lover of the men. Detective Cho and his force protect Su-Yeon and follows the leads based one the information she tells, while the killer executes other victims. However, Cho discloses very dark secrets in the end, finding the real motives of the murderer. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As I watched this film, I kept asking myself: What's the killer's motivation(s)? Not until the last few minutes did that become clear well, as clear as it could be, given the narrative structure: reminiscent of the plot of Se7en (1995) but with the addition of a number of flashbacks that do more to confuse than to wholly satisfy.
And, there are obvious nods to not only Se7en, but Silence of the lambs (1991), also, particularly the cinematography and scene construction. At one point, echoing a scene from the former, Detective Cho (Suh-kyu Han) is lying exhausted in a rain-soaked alley way, while the killer sits waiting in his car, only two metres away; but instead of running Cho down, the killer screams away into the rain. In another scene, Cho is in an elevator and looks up to see bright blood dripping from the hatchway, and then also dripping down the wall; suddenly, the hatch breaks and buckets of blood cascade onto him. Add to that are the many interior scenes in run-down tenements and so forth, all evocative of the spooky corridors of those earlier films.
Still, the story is interesting, in a macabre way: across Seoul, body parts turn up in black plastic bags, but not all parts belong to the body. Somebody is perpetrating murder piecemeal. Enter Detective Cho, somewhat under suspicion for corruption but handed the case as way to redeem his career. More mixed-up body parts are discovered, but no hands with fingerprints. So, no clues. Until a head appears with teeth fillings that can be traced. One thing leads to another until Cho finds himself knocking on the door to Chae Su-Yeon (Eun-ha Shim), a young woman who knows all the male victims.
And so begins the real mystery for Cho - and the viewer. Through questioning and a series of flashbacks, it looks like Chae is in the frame; yet, murders continue while she is under surveillance. Suspicion falls upon her father, who, from Chae's account, is shown to be a sadistic, authoritarian figure; but he can't be found. And then there's a further nod to another thriller, Kiss the girls (1997), where the idea of a deadly duo is raised and then quashed when a prime suspect is himself reduced to a jumble of parts in a bag. All very messy for Cho, and increasingly so, because he appears to be attracted to the sweet Chae Su-Yeon, a complication he can do without, you would think.
In a way, I can also compare this film to the manner in which David Lynch constructs his films. When you see any of the more recent Lynch films, the real mystery (and challenge) is how to understand the story. For Tell Me Something, the problem is how to understand the mystery because, as I said, the killer's motivation(s) is the key. And yet, at the end, there is no absolute clarity, even though the identity is obvious. So if I provide my understanding here and now, I think that would detract from the pleasure of unraveling it for yourself. Meanwhile, I'll continue to ponder the significance of the title, the significance of which escapes me.
However, the production is excellent and the special effects (dismembered bodies, body pieces, heads, gutted torsos and so on) are so realistic they may cause some people more than just some discomfit. It will certainly satisfy the slash-and-gore set who liken this movie to Italian giallo cinema, exemplified by Dario Argento's works such as Deep Red (1977), Tenebre (1982) and others. It's classified as a horror film and I think that's justified, given the underpinnings of the story and the camera work.
I can't comment much on the acting as I'm not familiar with the actors or Korean cinema, having seen only a few; generally, however, I think the actors performed quite well.
Recommended for those who like a mixed bag of horror, mystery and thriller...and body parts.
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