Fantastic Fest Review: CONFESSION OF MURDER Is A Full-Service Entertainment Buffet

Best car chase of the year, right here.

Alex already supplied BAD with a wonderful review of Jeong Byeong-gil's Confession of Murder when it played the New York Asian Film Festival earlier this year. But I found the film pretty remarkable, and would like to throw my two cents in as well, especially in the context of the higher profile that appears to be growing around the film.

Directed by a guy whose debut was a documentary about South Korean stuntman, and made as an excuse to give those stuntmen a real showcase for their skills, one can definitely expect action sequences of the highest caliber from Confession of Murder. When the shit hits the fan in this film, it does so in a spectacular fashion, not just with the stunts on display but also with its strangely watchable compromises made to chaos cinema. The cuts are fast, but not too fast. Jeong Byeong-gil utilizes shakey-cam, but the movement is so measured and consistent that is feels more like a vibra-cam. It's still shot a little too close for comfort, but you're never as lost as you'd expect.

And then there are the stunts, which truly are incredible. They never quite enter the Jackie Chan/Tony Jaa level insanity, but because none really focus on a single actor we have crazy shit going on all over the place, making these almost irresponsibly dangerous feats of skill seem dazzling and casual at the same time.

Seriously though, the film's centerpiece is a three-party high speed automobile chase which supplies the setting for a simultaneous foot chase and series of fist fight happening on top of these cars. It is without a doubt high on my list of best action sequences to come out this year. (Even hugely impressive real-life stunts cannot compete with the totally fake majesty of Dom Toretto soaring through the air to save his girlfriend.)

But the Confession of Murder's real shock is how few action sequences there are in favor of plot and character. Knowing this ahead of time, it's much easier to appreciate the action when it happens rather than spend the whole film impatiently waiting for the onslaught of craziness that's not really coming. Normally this dearth of action would be an issue, but Confession of Murder's plot offers a top notch series of cool events anchored by a large, but always well-defined and interesting, stable of characters.

Fifteen years ago a serial killer murdered ten women, one of them the lady friend of super cop Choi Hyeong-goo, who very nearly caught him and now bears both physical and emotional scars which constantly remind him of his failure. The fifteen year time jump is important because apparently there's a statue of limitations on murder in South Korea. So two years after the statute is up, a man claiming to be the killer comes forth with a memoir which recounts the crimes in convincing detail.

Charming and handsome in that spectacularly feminine way that always helps identify South Korean hunks, the supposed killer becomes a media sensation, and his book sells a billion million copies. This, of course, brings Choi back into the picture, both as an investigator trying to determine if this guy is the real deal and as a harried figure of antagonism in the soap opera dynamic encouraged and executed by the media.

Meanwhile, and this is where Confession of Murder really starts displaying serious deftness with plot complications kept clear through memorable characters and expert pacing, the families of the killer's victims have banded together in an attempt to murder the supposed killer now that he's revealed himself.

There are other moving parts to Confession of Murder's four-course free for all, but I've probably said too much about the plot already. The point is not how big the story gets, but how well Jeong Byeong-gil juggles it all. In typical South Korean fashion, the film takes us through a wide spectrum of emotions, usually without warning. It's funny, it's thrilling, it's sad, and it occasionally borders on scary, all while offering heavy and fun satire on celebrity and media. The plot's twists and turns are linear and require no labyrinthine mental stretching to understand, all leading up to a well-earned, satisfying conclusion. Confession of Murder would be good without the action scenes. With them, it delivers a total, but judiciously measured, package.

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