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Film Review: ‘A Record of Sweet Murder’ (2014)

This claustrophobic psychodrama unfolds as a grisly single take for much of its running time.

With:
Kim Kko-bbi, Yeon Je-wook, Tsukasa Aoi, Ryotaro Yonemura, Park Jeong-yoon, Koji Shiraishi. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)

A journalist’s exclusive interview with a serial killer becomes life-threatening in “A Record of Sweet Murder.” Presented as a single take for the overwhelming majority of its running time, this claustrophobic psychodrama has its dramatic ups and downs before reaching a very clever and surprisingly touching resolution. Grungy visuals and bloody proceedings in the killer’s dingy hideout won’t be to the liking of most general auds, but genre buffs will prove much more receptive to this latest work by prolific Japanese helmer Koji Shiraishi (“Noroi: The Curse”). Fests with midnight slots should check it out; release details for Japan and South Korea are pending.

Firmly positioned within the realm of found-footage thrillers, the pic opens with 27-year-old journalist Soyeon (Kim Kko-bbi) telling her cameraman (helmer Shiraishi, heard but not seen) why they’ve come to a grimy Seoul neighborhood. Soyeon has been contacted by Sangjoon (Yeon Je-wook), a childhood friend who has escaped from a mental institution and murdered 18 people. Sangjoon has promised to tell Soyeon everything on the strict proviso that a Japanese cameraman records the interview.

Arriving on the fifth floor of a dilapidated apartment block, Soyeon is met by a manic, knife-wielding Sangjoon. Promising not to harm her but threatening to kill the cameraman if he stops filming, Sangjoon says he’s actually killed 25 people and needs two more victims to complete a “miracle” that the voice of God has promised. The miracle in question is the undoing of the long-ago death of Yoonjin, a childhood friend whom Soyeon and Sangjoon witnessed getting fatally struck by a car.

According to instructions Sangjoon says he’s receiving from above, Japanese victims are required to complete the task. Providing just enough detail about how God is guiding him to ward off audience groans, Sangjoon sees his prayers instantly answered by the arrival of Ryota (Ryotaro Yonemura) and Tsukasa (Tsukasa Aoi), a honeymooning couple with an interest in urban decay.

So far so good, plot-wise, but things start to run off the rails when Sangjoon reveals hidden terms and conditions in his divine contract. Apparently the Japanese victims must also show “the power of love,” leading to scenes of sexual assault and depravity that serve little narrative purpose. Relegated to the sidelines while much of this kinky business is taking place, Soyeon is brought back into the frame for a finale that proves highly imaginative and emotionally rewarding.

Performances are fine from a game cast, though Yonemura indulges in a little too much eye-rolling as the victim who temporarily turns the tables on his captor.

 

Film Review: 'A Record of Sweet Murder' (2014)

Reviewed at Hong Kong Filmart, March 25, 2014. Running time: 87 MIN. (Original title: “Aru yasashiki satsujinsha no kiroku”)

Production: (Japan-South Korea) A Nikkatsu, T-Joy (in Japan)/Zoa Films (in South Korea) release of a Nikkatsu, Zoa Films production. (International sales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo.) Produced by Yoshi Kino, Choi Yu-ri. Executive producers, Akifumi Sugihara, Lee Eun-kyoung.

Crew: Directed, written by Koji Shiraishi. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Sun Sang-jie; editor, Kim Mun-pyo; production designer, Song Yun-hyoung; sound (Dolby Digital), Hong Ye-young, Sung Ji-young; visual effects, Alexus Kok, Takashi Maruyama, Naoki Maeda; action coordinator, Ricky Jun; assistant director, Lee Sei-jong.

With: Kim Kko-bbi, Yeon Je-wook, Tsukasa Aoi, Ryotaro Yonemura, Park Jeong-yoon, Koji Shiraishi. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)

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