Saturday, February 11, 2012

Destiny is a Killer: Parallel Life

You know what they say about karma? It sure is for one self-righteous judge. Much to his alarm, he seems to be replaying the tragic events of his predecessor’s final days thirty years ago. Needless to say, things ended badly for that jurist. The honorable Kim Seok-hyeon desperately struggles against apparent fate in Kwon Ho-young’s Parallel Life (trailer here), now available on DVD from Pathfinder Pictures.

Shortly after celebrating a high profile promotion, Kim’s beautiful wife Bae Yoon-kyeong is brutally murdered. According to pushy journo Nam Ga-hee, the late Judge Han was promoted to Kim’s post thirty years to the date before he was. Likewise, his wife was killed exactly thirty years prior as well. Just what happened to Judge Han? He is not called the “late” for nothing. Strangely though, the case files have suspiciously disappeared. Of course, Kim is very curious about what revelations they might contain. After all, it was not just Han and his wife who met an untimely end. The judge’s young child and chief deputy were also killed.

Parallel is the sort of film that is tricky to discuss in depth while avoiding spoilers. Director Kim and screenwriter Han Jeung-ae slyly keep viewers off balance, unsure whether they are watching a spooky tale of cosmic irony or a conspiracy thriller. They keep the curveballs coming at an almost dizzying pace, but the complicated details all hang together rather well in retrospect.

Ji Jin-hee is sufficiently solid as the uptight protagonist in for a karmic beatdown. Yet, it is Park Byeong-eun who really makes the movie zing as Seo Jeong-woon, the legal lieutenant whose reserve will be greatly challenged. Though she exits rather early, Yoon Se-ah has the perfect classy but alluring presence for Kim’s ill-fated wife. Young Park Sa-rang is also quite compelling and hugely sympathetic as Kim’s daughter, Ye-jin. Nonetheless, the innocent girl in mortal peril is becoming an exhausting convention of Korean genre cinema.

Frankly, Parallel has so many inventive twists, it is almost surprising it has not yet been optioned for an American remake. However, the film ultimately goes to some uncommonly dark places that Hollywood would never venture into. If The Help is your idea of edgy entertainment, give Parallel a wide berth. Conversely, for those who consider Twin Peaks unrealistically upbeat, it should be like catnip. Well executed and consistently intriguing, Parallel is highly recommended as a DVD discovery, now available from most online retailers.