Monday, December 21, 2009

Paradise Murdered (2007; Kim Han-min)

With my winter break in motion and most of my friends visited, I finally have some time to sit down and enjoy a few moments of peace.

A small island community numbering only seventeen citizens finds itself in quite a situation. The situation being that all seventeen of them disappear and no one knows why. The film proceeds to go back in time to give us a first hand experience of what really happened.

First off let me say that despite how much I hate most thrillers that come out of the US, I've noticed foreign pieces tend to feel a lot more fresh and appear to know that they actually have room to move around and explore (see Memories of Murder for an example of this). This is most likely caused by the unbelievable amount of red tape and butchering scripts have to go through in the US to get the green light (aka, turn everything into
Se7en). The whole point of all this is mostly that just because things get described as thrillers, don't get too distraught until you find out what country it is from.

Right off the bat you notice that Han-min isn't planning on taking the entire film too seriously as we are introduced to the film by over-acting fisherman screaming about like little girls finding a spider. This is a trend that continues through the earlier parts of the film, and one can't help but feel a little uncomfortable with that. As I see it there are two sides to this, either you could see it as just some jabs at light-hearted humor, or you could see it as more of an inadequacy on Han-min's part. This film being his debut, (and strangely enough not on IMDb) odds are his confidence might have been a little on the lesser side of the spectrum. As far as I am concerned the jabs at humor were unnecessary as the film was actually interesting enough and had enough compelling atmosphere to stand on its own. This, in return, produces a negative effect as everytime one of the nonsense scenes pops up, it reminds you of just how much of a movie it really is.

As you should notice by the plot, this piece focuses on a very large group of individuals, which makes it hard for the director to make them appear as individuals and not just background noise. This might be the strongest asset this film has. While not as evenly spread and thorough as pieces like
9 Souls and The Thing, most of the cast on the island have enough time to develop past the 2D place holder mark. That accomplishment alone is fantastic considering there are seventeen of them and the film clocks at just under two hours long.

Overall the film has enough strength to hold on its own. While some of the absurditys can grind on your patience near the beginning, the whole thing comes together well enough as the tale progresses. The pacing and structure are solid, keeping your interest and not bogging the story down while trying to conceal what was really happening. It all wraps up into a nice mystery that while flawed, is still enjoyable enough to sit down to on a nice night before bed (if you can't tell, that is what I did ;) ).

Score: 3/5

Notes: Whodunit? Whodunwhat?

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