How Far Will Three Detectives Go to Stop Evil? “Memories of Murder” (Neon / Digital Screener)

Two impractical detectives of the Gyunggi province of South Korea investigate a pair of rape and murder cases involving two beautiful and unrelated women found with their hands bound behind their backs, gagged with a rock tied into their mouth, and with their panties covering their heads.  Known around the province for their torturous interrogation tactics, the detectives bully a mentally handicap young man and the local pervert into confessing to the heinous crimes, but when a Seoul investigator arrives into the village, drawn in by the curiosity and coincidence of the murders, a larger scale serial rapist and murderer, calculating his every move, is unearthed, connected by series of events leading the small police force to reevaluate their handling of the murders that have become more gruesome than the next with every victim. 

Before his inevitable recognition from the 2019 Academy Awards for his socially skewed hierarchy thriller, “Parasite,” that historically won Best Picture, Directing, International Film Feature, and Original Screenplay categories, even before his breakout success amongst fans of the horror genre with the creature feature, “The Host,” and an introduction into the American film market with another social class commentary, the dystopian standoff that was “Snowpiercer,” starring the Captain America portrayer himself, Chris Evans, filmmaker Bong Joon-ho had an eye for crafting his vision on camera and a knack for nerve-shredding storytelling as a writer in the early 2000’s with his 2003 sophomore feature, a crime drama entitled “Memories of Murder.” Originally known as “Salinui chueok” and written by director, the film is an encryption of a murder mystery encoded from the real life serial crimes in the Hwaeseong province in the 1980’s, Bong Joon-ho’s film takes place in 1986, and renders an engrossing story structured like a modern day Jack the Ripper emerging out of the unpleasant anecdotes of Korea lore stirred with themes of consequences as a result of careless failures and the inadequacy of effort no matter the analyzed angle.  CJ Entertainment, Muhan Investment, and Sidus serve as production companies of this somber sleuth mystery.

Despite their different methods of interrogations and investigation pursuits, the story hammers down on the three detectives’ across the board search for a methodical killer rather than a killer’s betokening perception of events as the detectives, individually flawed with ill repute and personally challenged, separately come unglued, make mistakes, and suffer the consequences of their public inanity, but when they click in harmony and rally on the same page, the truth almost hops into their laps rather than at a snail’s pace stemmed from internal competition for apprehension success. Song Kang-ho has played the constant, the unparalleled keystone, in Bong’s two decades of film credits, beginning his collaboration with the acclaimed director in “Memories of Murder” as the province’s ineffectual blowhard detective, Park Doo-man. With a deadpan stare, Song Kang-ho debones the Park Doo-man to his rudimentary base, a waggish con artist in an officer’s casual attire, and the actor defines Park’s arc so clearly, distinctly, and with ease that you can actually see Park Doo-man’s soul just become utterly crushed by not only the tough case but also when it’s clear that he must separate himself from his partner Cho Yong-koo (Kim Roe-ha) after a foolish bar fight of steadfast conviction and begin to accept his counterpart rival Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung) to no longer be the buffoon when bodies continues to pile up. “Memories of Murder” round out with Song Jae-ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Ko Seo-hie, Park No-shik, and Ryu Tae-ho.

In the battle to be top cop that nabs the worst criminal the province has ever seen, a disastrous paradox thwarts their oath to protect and serve the community as the two detectives, in their haste for swift justice, don’t see eye-to-eye on issues of evidence and actual detective work with a levelheaded outside investigator putting his foot forward delivering a working, if not more rational, model of a killer’s mind.  The innate detective, Park Doo-man, relies heavily on the circumstantial from gossip, relayed by the province investigator’s soothing nurse who he’s also seeing romantically, to superstition, visiting expensive shamans and claiming to have supernatural sleuth abilities himself, in order to cheat corners in hoping the information will present itself like an elegantly wrapped gift with a bow on top.  At the other end is the outsider, detective Seo Tae-yoon, from the metropolis area of Seoul and the big city detective, who sees more of these types of crime in his urban backyard, conducts a factual investigation based off research and relying on experience that gives him intuition into how the killer thinks.  Clarity in the contrast concedes more so when the third detective, another province resident, Cho Yong-koo, refuses to change his ways of brutal violence and torture as he continues his flying kicks right into the chests of suspects whereas his partner, Park Doo-man, relaxes his greed for admiration when the number of deceased women becomes unnerving and public trust in law enforcement rapidly diminishes; the reality sets when his counterpart, Seo Tae-yoon, produces results closer to an arrest based on fact.  Bong Joon-ho’s approach at the beginning would not be a conventional one that mingles rape and murder with the bumbling antics of a small town police force that’s outrageously zany at times.  The zaniness comedy subsides and is replaced with an air-letting dismal outlook of vulnerability and powerlessness in making little-to-no headway into a case that keeps getting grislier and grislier with the killer not inserting objects into his female victim’s vagina.  Trusting the system is even more disquieted so when the most latest and reliable crime solving techniques in the mid-1980s, from America none-the-less, proves to be astonishingly inconclusive, making the case seem like a no-win situation that then reverts back to the idea that sometimes even the most careful and meticulously handled cases, without the use of force, are not solvable. 

The powerful knuckle-biter “Memories of Murder” rattles with anxious tension and is chartered gracefully through the unrivaled eye of Bong Joon-ho.  Now making it’s grand return exclusively to theaters nationwide October 19th and 20th, “Memories of Murder” will be exhibited digitally remastered for U.S. audience for the first time since it’s initial release since 2003 courtesy of a partnership between Neon and Fathom Events.  The limited theatrical running with include exclusive content and a post-screening conversation between Bong Joon-Ho and “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” director, Edgar Wright.  Since I’m unable to compare the digitally remastered with the initial release, all I can say is that the film presentation appears steady, tight, and clean with Bong’s sepia tone to incept a memory fragment of the past and shot to entice an unfathomable crime drama captured as beautiful gaslit dissonance between background societal unrest, the case at hand, and the audiences’ unsuspecting role as the potential suspect. The screener provided is a digital screening link and might appear different in a theater sitting. The English subtitles were clearly visible with some minor errors in spelling. Again, this might vary in theaters. There were no bonus material on this screener, but, remember, that the limited run event on October 19th and 20th will have the exclusive bonus content and the Wright and Bong conversation. Unforgettably wrung with wraith-like anecdotal properties, “Memories of Murder” can be labeled as Bong Joon-Ho’s exemplary film, even better than his current work that won him an Oscar.

God Hatin’ MMA Fighter Still Has The Power in Him to Fight EVIL! “The Divine Fury” reviewed!


After the sudden and violent death of his police officer father, mixed martial arts champion, Yong-hoo, has a complete disdain for God from a young age now that both his parents have perished. Growing up angry and swarmed with negative thoughts, Yong-hoo goes through life without much of a purpose until he awakes from vivid dream with the wound of stigmata on his hand. Unable to stop the bleeding by means of conventional medicine, he resorts to a shaman who convinces him to seek out Father Ahn, an elder priest experienced at practicing the rite of exorcism, and learns that the wound and Father’s once unwavering benevolence provide a divine weapon against a growing covenant of demons under the black magic of a Dark Bishop. Together, Yong-hoo and Father Ahn combat the forces of evil before the possession runs rampant in the city.

South Korea packs a punch with an action-packed take on possession and exorcism with Kim Joo-hwan’s “The Divine Fury.” The 2019 released film that blends horror with the cinematic formulas of the comic book universe films is written and directed by Joo-hwan and produced by Studio 706, KeyEast, and Lotte Entertainment, the latter being a subsidiary of one of the largest Asia conglomerates and a leader in the Asian film industry. “The Divine Fury” isn’t low-rent horror, providing fans with salt of the earth martial arts, a range of diverse set locations, and a decent grade of special effects that range from stunt men quality to visual monstrosities, including a giant hell worm bristled with millions of arms and hands, and also gives a chance for Joo-hwan to showcase his junior horror-action that succeeds a 2017 buddy-comedy in “Midnight Runners” and a coming to terms drama in his 2013 film, Koala. One motif, and perhaps trademark, that runs through all of Joo-hwan’s written and directed films is the coupling of protagonists element and “The Divine Fury” is not an exception and follows the same coupling, if not slightly altered, mechanism.

A pair of actors from Bong Joon-ho’s award nomination buzzing “Parasite” also have a role “The Divine Fury,” one of them, Seo-joon Park, being the lead star of the Joo-hwan film as the MMA Godsend, Yong-hoo, with hate in his heart for the Lord Almighty. Yong-hoo’s a joy to watch on the screen as a character with an arch’s beginning as a young man, a mindless fighter, being verbally influenced over his shoulders by demon puppeteers to finding his lost father figure in a man who has an unflinching amount of faith. Seo-joon captures the defined struggle Yong-hoo has with God even in the face of pure demonic evil before him. An evil battled by Father Ahn, dolefully portrayed by “Sector 7’s” Sung-Ki Ahn. Sung-Ki fatherly performance places Yong-hoo into a role of humility, not only as a mentor, but with experience and patiences that resigns to trust rather than action. However, the dynamic goes both ways. Seo-joon shows lot of physical strength becoming unwittingly the “divine” warrior to thwart an insidious malevolency when Father Ahn is taken out of action due to Yong-hoo’s haste. Seo-joon had to quickly and naturally grow up his character to be the leading, brute force of experience and physicality and did just that as character faces off with the Dark Bishop, Ji-sin. Ji-sin invokes demons to inhabit those in a weak state of mind. This devilishness wouldn’t have been made possible without Do-Hwan Woo’s stoically sly and slimy confidence behind the character. The remaining cast rounds out with another “Parasite” actor, Woo-sik Choi, and Seung-Joon Lee.

“The Divine Fury” is fundamentally an essential oil extracted from the widely popular comic book universe money-making machines, that are sometimes also called movies from time-to-time, but “The Divine Fury” doesn’t have that monstrous platform of a narrative pulled directly from the illustrated pages of comic book franchise. Yet, the story builds a downtrodden, seeking-answers Seo-Joon with a tragic past and an ability to pulverize people – a winningly similar combination to any pre-defined hero in the Marvel character evolution. There’s also this theme of fatherhood and mentorship, like seen in “X-Men” with Professor X or “Blade” with Abraham Whistler. The latter of those two examples perhaps more closely resembles Father Ahn as the relation to the horror-action genre is similar in nature, but instead of abstaining from blood thirst, Seo-Joon is abstaining from letting God into his heart. Of course, “Blade” was ultra-violent and bloody and “The Divine Fury” is grossly more toned down with the exception of a few key moments of blood regurgitation. Speaking of effects, the visual effects waned from expectation and teetered more toward a rushed and unpolished look. They weren’t terrible, but not the best looking visual effects demons in the industry.

Well Go USA Entertainment brings the action of exorcism to Blu-ray and DVD home video with a dual format, two-disc release of “The Divine Fury.” Presented in a 1080p widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio and sheathed in a slipcover, “The Divine Fury” feels necessarily gritty in comparison to the subject material with a clean, almost sterile image that defines the blacks and colors, despite a short range of vivid hues the hues that are dominant are profoundly thick and dark. The limited color palette won’t be a problem as demons hide in the shadows and that’s where the story takes domain in scaffolding-laden churches, orphanage basements, and even a swanky neon-glowing club with a well of damnation beneath in the dungeon. The skin tones have a natural feel about them, but going against the grain of naturalism is the visual effects as aforementioned as they don’t render properly to exude the right viewer reaction. The Korean language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has ample weight. Whispering shadows of slithering speak and the bubbling of the, again, well of damnation emit the right kind of range and depth needed to descent into doom and gloom atmospherics. Dialogue is crystal clear and in prominent. An English dub is available, as well as English subtitles that errorless and well synced to the Korean dialogue track. There is some English during a MMA fight on the Korean track. Bonus material includes a rather generally spiced together making of featurette that includes mini segments such as prop commentary, special effects, behind-the-scenes look, and the construction of the antagonist world in “The Divine Fury. There are also a couple of trailer variants and a U.S. trailer for the film. Ultimately, “The Divine Fury” intrigues on the fray, desiring more into the backstory of Father Ahn and delving further into Seo-Joon’s weaponized stigmata and director Joo-hwan Kim teases just that with a taste of things to come with a short pre-credit scene that sets up “The Divine Fury” for more themes, perhaps, on a love-hate relationship with God, more, perhaps, finding suitable father figures, but, of course, there will be for sure more exorcizing ass-kicking of demons.

Purchase the dual format release by clicking the above image! “The Divine Fury”