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KIM TAE-KYUN: DARK FIGURE OF CRIME 암수살인 (2018)

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KIM YOON-SEOK, JU JI-HOON IN DARK FIGURE OF CRIME

The crazy killer and the dedicated investigator

This is a police procedural with a difference. The term "dark figure of crime" alludes to the mass of unsolved crimes, particularly murders, that continually accumulates. On the one hand it's the story of the fierce psychological confrontation between a detective, chief inspector Kim Hyung-min (Kim Yoon-seok) and a multiple killer, Kang Tae-oh (Ju Ji-hoon, and the lengthy teasing cat and mouse game as this plays out. On the other hand it the story of inspector Kim's extraordinary dedication to solving a series of unsolved murders in order not so much to achieve additional convictions, but to bring some kind of resolution to the families involved. Both Kim and the younger Ju, it must be said, are actors at the top of their game, with different acting styles. Kim is restrained, Ju flashy. Sometimes Ju's histrionics are extreme, but they are ridiculously entertaining. It's fun what he can do just with a pair of light-responsive glasses.

Kang entices Kim to visit him in prison and eventually to repeatedly give him gifts and bribes to earn his cooperation. He is in prison for killing his girlfriend, but starts confessing to a list of others, which Kim doggedly investigates, ably assisted by detective Jo (Jin Seon-kyo, also good). The tedium, and detail, of the film's investigative passages is regularly relieved by Kim's repeat visits to Kang in prison, which are not only dramatically entertaining, but each time alter the focus as new details come out.

It becomes evident that Kang has a strategy, that questions about statutes of limitations about his alleged earlier murders will enable him to appeal his original murder conviction and get a shortened sentence, or release. But through luck for Kim, Kang is instead convicted of another murder, and his sentence is changed from fifteen years to life. He subsequently commits suicide in prison. But Kim goes on seeking the solve the other murders.

The message, I guess, is that police work is not a product but a process. Inspector Kim is a model of tirelessness that makes this no ordinary police procedural. Kim Yoon-seok has said that this is his favorite of the numerous detective roles he has played. Surprisingly, this is Kim Tae-kyun's feature film directorial debut: it's a pro effort all the way.

The film is reportedly loosely inspired by the 869th episode of "Unanswered" [ko], a South Korean investigation television program recounting true events of unreported murders in Korea's second city, Busan.

Dark Figure of Crime has not been reviewed in any major US trade journal but covered in Joongang Daily September 17 and View of Korean Cinema November 7, 2018. Described in detail by Hayley Scanlon in Windows on Worlds.

Dark Figure of Crime 암수살인 (lit. Unknown Murders), 110 mins., won two Korean awards for best screenplay and one nomination for best lead actor. It was released in Korea Oct. 3, 2018. Screened for this review as part of the NYAFF.
NYAFF Showtimes
Saturday, July 6
9:00 PM

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