[DVD review]‘Voice of a Murderer’ misses mark

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[DVD review]‘Voice of a Murderer’ misses mark


“Voice of a Murderer”

It takes a working knowledge of Latin to fully understand the English subtitles of a recent Korean DVD release, “Voice of a Murderer,” about the tormenting and ultimately unsuccessful attempts of two parents to bring their kidnapped child back home. About halfway through the film, amid the hassles of reading the subtitles while digesting what was happening on the screen, a line magically appeared which read, “Ut sementem feceris ita metes.”
This reviewer had to pause the DVD and do some Googling to find out that it was a Cicero quote, meaning, “You reap what you sow.” Thank you, DVD producers, for expecting that every single viewer of the film would be knowledgeable enough to read and understand a Latin sentence in less than five seconds.
Other than the Latin part, the film is not especially challenging to understand. It’s mostly the howling and blubbering of a father and mother who have lost their precious only son. Based on the true story of a kidnapped child found dead in 1991, the film faithfully follows the 44-day quest to find the missing victim. To this date the police have failed to catch the kidnapper, and the film ends with the father, a hotshot TV anchor, crying during a live broadcast, “I will chase you to the end of this world and catch you.” The director, Park Jin-pyo, closes the film with a recording of the real culprit intended to encourage the audience to join the hunt for the murderer.
With due respect and condolences to the family and the dead child, it still has to be said that the film itself is a costly and noisy reminder of how crafty the 2003 Bong Joon-ho film “Memories of Murder” was. It sits in the same category as this DVD in that it deals with an open murder case. Yet, Bong took the raw material of the serial murder case and orchestrated it to give an insightful perspective on Korea in the 1980s and the weakness of mankind. Park’s “Voice,” however, appears to be a campaign film in cooperation with the police to look for the culprit.
The most striking contrast between the two is their respective endings. In contrast to Park’s didactic close, Bong simply had a close-up of lead actor Song Gang-ho’s face, with his memorable, telling gaze.
Park’s miss is even more disappointing when one considers his impressive debut, “Too Young to Die” (2002). With an honest and controversial depiction of an old couple’s romantic life, Park earned a reputation as an adventurer. Yet his latest film fails to bring the same fresh blast of challenging ideas.
He seems to have tried at least, as he focuses for quite some time on how the upper-class parents realize the emptiness of their lives and lose their religion. The male lead performs a soliloquy lamenting that he is being punished by God for his past vanity and false shows of power. Yet, that aspect is all too trivial; overall, Park gave in to the weight of the real-life disaster of the kidnapping.
One big pity is that heartthrob actor Kang Dong-won is featured as the kidnapper in hiding. The biggest attraction that the actor has to offer is his looks, but throughout the 122-minute running time, he remains faceless. Yet he still offered a passable performance of a cold-blooded kidnapper, even more impressive than the overly dramatic work of of the two lead actors featured as parents.
Sol Kyung-gu, as the father, and Kim Nam-joo, as the mother, did their best in shedding tears and looking angry. This film, however, is not a work to remember in Sol’s filmography, as he did nothing new. Kim, on the other hand, at least made some progress, as she escaped from her usual image as a pretty lady in advertisements for luxury goods. Now viewers know that she can cry, too, on top of offering pretty smiles and wearing expensive clothes.

“Voice of a Murderer”
Directed by Park Jin-pyo
Starring: Sol Kyung-goo, Kim Nam-joo
Running Time: 122 minutes
Subtitles: English
Genre: Drama

By Chun Su jin [sujiney@joongang.co.kr]
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