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[Herald Review] ‘Dark Figure of Crime,’ a gripping trip tumbling down the rabbit hole

By Yoon Min-sik

  • Published : Sept 16, 2018 - 15:07
  • Updated : Sept 16, 2018 - 15:07

A convicted murderer confesses to a detective there is the blood of six lives on his hand.

Why? Is he dumb? Most definitely not. He is cunning enough to manipulate people from within his cell.

Is he crazy? Probably, but his intentions lie outside what most people would imagine, and it is this mystery that compels the audience to follow detective Kim Hyung-min (Kim Yoon-seok) in “Dark Figure of Crime.”

The thriller, directed by Kim Tae-kyun, pulls cinemagoers in right away in the shoes of Hyung-min, as they are left to wonder whether or not the clues presented are true.

“Dark Figure of Crime” (Showbox)

Based on real-life events, the film starts with a scene of Hyung-min meeting informant Kang Tae-oh (Ju Ji-hoon), a junkie who claims to have information about a body he had helped bury. Tae-oh is arrested by a group of police officers, as it turns out that he had brutally murdered his girlfriend.

A few weeks later, Tae-oh contacts the detective to inform him that he has killed seven men and women in all. He litters clues in front of Hyung-min, some of which are true and others downright fabrications, but he lies through his teeth in court, saying his boastful confessions of murder had been coerced from police by force.

From the get-go, the movie throws the whodunit aspect out the window, as our culprit is already behind bars in five minutes flat. What captivates the audience is why, why is he doing this? What is he not telling us?

The mystery tantalizingly teases viewers as they are sucked into the plot.

What I want to mention here is Ju’s portrayal of a psychopathic killer, which was surprisingly convincing and on-point. One of the temptations an actor faces when depicting such a crazy killer is to exaggerate: bulging eyes, psychotic laughter, menacing attitude.

That’s not to say Tae-oh had none of these aspects, but he manages to pull off a relatively grounded and realistic psychopath. His indifference, lack of empathy and childish irritation was on-point in telling how “off” this person was.

Despite his impressive run at the box office, Ju has had ups and down when it comes to acting, and this was probably as high as he gets.

While Ju exceeds expectations, his co-star Kim is as brilliant as expected. He is like the second-coming of Song Kang-ho -- although the two are basically the same age -- who just wears a role and goes with it, and steals the show.

In this film, however, Kim did not have a tense moment with the emotion dialed up to 11.

Instead the director refrains from dramatization or intentionally intense moments as much as possible, and just lets the strength of the story itself pull the audience in.

As the plot progresses, the audience soon learns the mystery is only half of what’s carrying the movie. This film is just as much about the drama. As Kim Yoon-seok pointed out in an interview, the real protagonists of the film are not Hyung-min or Tae-oh, but the victims.

“Who are you? Just let me know, so I can do something for you,” mutters Hyung-min as he struggles with the mystery of an unknown victim.

Unearthing the extra murders does nothing for his career, yet he is relentless in his quest because it is the right thing to do -- for the victims and to prevent other possible victims.

The heart of the detective is what makes him “the hero” of the movie, which strikes the audience -- preoccupied with the mystery -- on the head as well.

It is a rare film with strong directing and acting that tells a compelling story with heart, mixed with suspense.

“Dark Figure of Crime” opens in local theaters on Oct. 3.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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