A child's death ignites a town's desire for vigilante justice in the gripping Korean thriller "No Doubt."

A child’s death ignites a town’s desire for vigilante justice in the gripping Korean thriller “No Doubt.” Building on his low-budget background, helmer Park Soo-young (“Be My Guest”) transitions here into the sort of psychological crime pic typified by Bong Joon-ho’s breakout, “Memories of Murder.” Solid perfs and quality production values are combined to riveting effect, though the pic is ultimately let down by its flimsy resolution. Skedded for domestic release in November, “Doubt” will undoubtedly work equally well for mainstream and Asian-themed fests.

Horticulturalist and overprotective single father Choong-sik (Hong Sang-soo alum Kim Tae-woo) considers himself lucky to be able to raise his 7-year-old daughter Mi-rim (Cho Min-ah) on the idyllic rural outskirts of Seoul’s Gyeonggi province — that is, until Mi-rim goes missing and is soon presumed dead.

Convicted pedophile Se-jin (Lee Jung-jin) has recently moved into the area. Trying to leave his sordid past and prison years behind him, Se-jin has established a bicycle-rental business after moving in with his mother (Kim Chang-sook) and sister In-hee (Lim Sung-eon), who arrived months before in the area.

As the community becomes increasingly frustrated with the fruitless police search for the missing girl, Se-jin’s official record is leaked to the general public. The news of an obvious suspect fires Choong-sik into action, and he posts copies of Se-jin’s record all over town. Parents start to withdraw their children from the school where In-hee works, and Se-jin’s family finds itself on the receiving end of even more direct abuse. Local police are keen to close the case, and start using insubstantial witnesses to that end.

Lee’s perf as Se-jin is deliberately remote; a key shot establishing the ex-con’s point of view is designed to be both confronting and alienating. Kim Tae-woo emits a powerful presence as the distraught and self-righteous father who seeks revenge to relieve his grief, while Lim likewise impresses as the sister whose life and livelihood is being destroyed by her brother’s criminal history. Kim Chang-sook imbues Se-jin’s mother with a sympathy driven by maternal love.

Compelling perfs are bolstered by solid helming and astute editing, while the script hinges on flashbacks that are designed to confuse rather than reveal. Unfortunately, in the final reels, when the mystery of who did what, where and when is finally unraveled, the answers border on glib, with too many coincidences presented in too short a time period.

Superior Red camera lensing looks respectable. A fine, nuanced score by Jung Jae-hwan gives pic an extra layer of quality.

No Doubt

South Korea

Production

An M-Line Distribution release of a Sovik Venture Capital presentation, in association with KD Media, Sponge Entertainment, of a Jack Film production, in association with Kofic. (International sales: M-Line Distribution, Seoul.) Produced by An Chul-ho. Directed by Park Soo-young. Screenplay, Ahn Seung-huan.

Crew

Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Choi Yoon-man; editor, Choi Hyun-suk; music, Jung Jae-hwan; production designer, Baek Kyung-in; sound (Dolby Digital), Seo Young-jun. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 13, 2010. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Lee Jung-jin, Kim Tae-woo, Jung In-gi, Kim Chang-sook, Cho Min-ah, Lim Sung-eon.

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