The so-called “Hwaseong Murders” were South Korea’s first recorded serial killings, but the statute of limitations expired before the murderer was uncovered. The case’s impact can still be discerned in Korean cinema’s fascination with serial killers and the ticking prosecutorial clock. Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder was transparently based on the Hwaseong killings and it is easy to see its influence on Jung Byoung-gil's Confession of Murder. The notorious crimes also directly inspired Kook Dong-seok’s Blood and Ties (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.
Jung Da-eun’s working class father Soon-man never had much, but he made sure she never lacked for anything. Now a grown adult, she still lives at home with the ever dedicated single parent. All her grad school friends adore dear old dad too, but after watching a lurid new documentary, they cannot help noticing how similar his voice sounds to that of a notorious child abductor. The unknown perpetrator was only recorded during a brief ransom call, but he even uses one the senior Jung’s favorite catch phrases.
Thoroughly confused and suspicious, Jung’s daughter starts poking around. The sudden appearance of Shim Yoon-young further amplifies her anxiety. He is obviously an unsavory character, but seems to share some murky history with her father. As the media trumpets the imminent expiration of the statute of limitations, Jung Da-eun struggles with her doubts and loyalties.
B&T is a wicked high concept thriller with ample opportunity for high tragedy, but it does not guard its secret closely enough. The set-up is downright sinister and the top-shelf primary cast maintains the intensity, but viewers will always have a pretty good idea where it is all headed.
Son Ye-jin comes apart at the emotional seams quite convincingly as Da-eun, but it is Kim Kap-soo who commands the film as her father. Somehow he projects steely malevolence and pained sensitivity simultaneously, thereby providing both sides of his character’s Rorschach. Without Kim’s perfectly modulated performance, B&T would not work to any extent. While the supporting cast is mostly adequate, Lim Hyung-joon is also distinctly slimy as the all kinds of bad news Shim.