You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Confession of Murder

Based on a string of unsolved homicides in South Korea that inspired Bong Joon-ho's "Memories of Murder," "Confession of Murder" boasts the catchy concept of a serial killer giving himself a celebrity makeover.

With: Jung Jae-young, Park Si-hoo, Min Ji-ah, Kim Young-ae, Jo Eun-ji, Jung Hae-kyung, Kim Jong-goo, Choi Won-young, Jang Gwang, Bae Seong-woo. (Korean dialogue)

Based on a string of unsolved homicides in South Korea that inspired Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of Murder,” “Confession of Murder” boasts the catchy concept of a serial killer giving himself a celebrity makeover. Stuntman-turned-helmer-scribe Jung Byung-gil can’t resist flexing his action muscles, so much so that wham-bang fights and car chases keeps intruding on a narrative that’s already a melange of genres. Although lacking in suspense or cerebral stimulation, the pic’s technical razzle-dazzle and morbidly pulpy subject have racked up killer B.O. of around $15 million, as well as overseas sales.

The opening wastes no time staging a propulsive chase sequence that culminates in a hair-raising rooftop stunt, but provides no explanation about the connection between the hunter and the hunted. The import of the scene only becomes clear when the narrative jumps forward 15 years, to 2005. It turns out that police Lt. Choi Hyung-gu (Jung Jae-young, “Glove,” “Castaway on the Moon”) was pursuing a masked fugitive who may have raped and murdered 10 women between 1986 and 1990, but the suspect escaped.

In 2007, two years after the statute of limitations has expired, Lee Doo-suk (Park Si-hoo) publishes a book in which he confesses to being the serial killer. Impeccably groomed and suave to a fault, he spawns an instant fanbase of teenage girls, and stirs up a media circus by goading Choi in a televised debate.

Just when the story starts to get interesting, the mood changes with the introduction of the victims’ relatives. Their plan to kidnap Lee for revenge is oddly staged as bumbling slapstick (even resorting to snakes in a pool), and only serves as pretext for a high-octane setpiece that works wonders with speeding vehicles. Though the action choreography strains for a Hollywood blockbuster effect, it’s undercut by abrupt editing and gaudy CGI.

By the third act, there’s another twist that delves into Choi’s past, specifically his relation to an 11th victim, Jung Su-yeon (Min Ji-ah), who is still missing. The late arrival of an enigmatic new character, J, (Jung Hae-kyung) finally brings Choi closer to solving the case, and a confrontation among J, Lee and Choi results in a poignant revelation, but another whammo action sequence leads to a morally questionable resolution.

“Confession” purports to pick up where “Memories” left off, turning the murderer, who never made an appearance in Bong’s riveting procedural, into a central figure. Yet the film’s themes — the media’s role as a celebrity-making machine and the public’s appetite for anything lurid — are hackneyed by comparison, and there’s no emotional or psychological heft to the way in which the killer’s image is demystified here. Jung, who trained at an action academy and helmed the docu “Action Boys” (about his classmates), feels ill at ease with fiction, unable to forge a unified style or tone.

Given the characters’ uncertain emotional arcs, Jung and Park do a commendable job providing sharp contrasts. TV thesp Park is especially charismatic as the self-conscious celebrity who switches from smug to smarmy at will, and Jung brings guilt-ridden passion to the familiar role of a scruffy, hot-tempered cop. In her brief appearances, Kim Young-ae leaves a haunting impression as Su-won’s bereaved mother.

Tech credits are flashy but lax on details. Sound mix is powerful, but the music is so brassy it would sound out of place even in “Mission: Impossible.” Pic’s Korean title means “I Am a Murderer.”

Popular on Variety

Confession of Murder

South Korea

Production: A Showbox/Mediaplex release and presentation of a Showbox/Mediaplex, Dasepo Club production in association with Showbox/Mediaplex. (International sales: Showbox/Mediaplex, Seoul.) Produced by Jang Won-suk. Executive producer, You Jeong-hun. Co-producers, You. Directed, written by Jung Byung-gil.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Kim Ki-tae, Jung Yong-gyun; editor, Nam Na-young; music, Kim Woo-geun; music supervisor, Kim Woo-keun; production designer, Yang Hong-sam; art director, Yang Hong-sam; set decorator, Yang Hong-sam; costume designer, Chea Kyung-hwa; sound (Dolby SRD), Lee In-kyu; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Lee In-kyu; special effects, Hong Jang-pyo; visual effects supervisor, Yoon Jae-hoon; visual effects, Alice FX; stunt coordinator, Kwon Ghi-duk; line producer, Lee Young-hee; associate producer, Seo Kang-hoo; assistant director, Choi Eun-jong; second unit director, Choi Eun-ae; second unit camera, Seo Jong-wook; casting, Jung Jae-young, Park Hee-soon. Reviewed on DVD, Vancouver, Oct. 25, 2012. Running time: 119 MIN.

With: With: Jung Jae-young, Park Si-hoo, Min Ji-ah, Kim Young-ae, Jo Eun-ji, Jung Hae-kyung, Kim Jong-goo, Choi Won-young, Jang Gwang, Bae Seong-woo. (Korean dialogue)

More Film

  • hugh jackman tiff bad education

    HBO Buys Hugh Jackman Dramedy 'Bad Education'

    HBO will buy “Bad Education,” a dark look at corruption in a Long Island public school district that earned strong reviews after it premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The pact is for a reported $17.5 million, making it the largest deal of an otherwise lackluster market for movies. With a cast that [...]

  • MoviePass card

    How MoviePass's Former Chairman Plans to Save the Floundering Company

    Ted Farnsworth still believes that MoviePass, the high-flying subscription service that crashed to Earth in spectacular fashion, can soar again. The former head of Helios and Matheson Analytics, the data company that bought MoviePass in 2017 and turned it into a phenomenon by allowing customers to see a movie per day for $9.99 a month, [...]

  • Streaming Battle: Disney, Apple and More

    The Battle for Eyeballs Makes for an Action-Packed Streaming Arena (Column)

    It came as no surprise last week that Disney CEO Bob Iger had resigned from the Apple board since the two companies are poised to launch competing subscription streaming services in less than two months. But Iger’s departure (announced the same day that Apple revealed its Nov. 1 launch date and $5-a-month price point) underscores [...]

  • La vaca

    Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Boards Debut by Chile’s Francisca Alegria (EXCLUSIVE)

    In what marks the company’s first Latin American project, Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Pictures has boarded Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegria’s debut feature, “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future.” The multi-Emmy-winning actor and his El Dorado partner Casey Bader will serve as executive producers of the film, slated to start principal photography in [...]

  • Inside Tinder's User-Controlled, Secret Streaming Sereis

    Inside Tinder's Secret Streaming Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Popular dating app Tinder is set to release a choose-your-own-adventure-style original series in early October, marking its first outing as a content financier and distributor, numerous individuals close to the project told Variety. The series is set against an impending apocalypse, one of the insiders noted, and asks the question “Who would you spend your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content