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Genome Hazard - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan, South Korea 2013

Thriller, Action

Kim Seong-su

Hidetoshi Nishijima
Kim Hyo-jin
Yoko Maki
Yuri Nakamura
Manabu Hamada
Masato Ibu
Lee Kyeong-yeong

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Genome Hazard

Story: Ishigami Taketo (Hidetoshi Nishijima) comes home one day to find his wife murdered. At the same time the telephone rings and when the answering machine picks up he hears that his wife is on the line. Ishigami doesn't understand a thing. Eventually the police knocks at his door. Suddenly the dead body isn't there anymore, but the police judge that Ishigami's behavior is rather odd, which is why they take him with them. In the police car it turns out that the men aren't really policemen and that they want to know about the man Oh Jin-woo from him. Ishigami manages to escape and by accident runs into reporter Kang Ji-won (Kim Hyo-jin). She helps him as he is on the run and listens to his strange story. Kang decides to investigate on her own while Ishigami is frequently plagued by loss of memory and also remembers things which can't be his own memories. Apparently, he has lives the lives of two individuals or rather someone toyed with his memories. Ishigami doesn't know yet that he has only little time left to find out the truth.

Review: Kim Seong-su's Korean-Japanese co-production of a sci-fi thriller centering around memories scores with a great plot idea, yet is structured unnecessarily confusing and more than once leaves you behind with question marks hovering above your head. Despite the polished pictures and the high production costs it's also the editing that's quite annoying at times. Obviously this is supposed to make the story look more complex than it already is. This often makes it frustrating to follow the events. Furthermore, "Genome Hazard" pretends to be more action-heavy than it really is. There seem to be some real issues with the pacing which will make you wonder why the movie wasn't arranged with a slower pacing, putting more focus on the individual personalities and the problems that result because of the memory chaos.

Genome Hazard - Film Screenshot 11

"Genome Hazard" should have been an atmospherically intense mystery thriller which revolves around the mystery of the different memories of one man. In fact, that's the movie's true appeal at first. Nothing really makes any sense and the more the movie progresses the more inconsistencies come up. The viewer starts to realize at some point that he can't trust what Ishigami says and the protagonist realizes this himself, too, which eventually causes black despair. This is quite an achievement in itself, it's just that director Kim uses too much of his time making Ishigami extensively lament his situation. It would have been more worthwile had he used this time making Ishigami reflect about his dilemma, because, mind you, there is is a big difference between reflection and lamentation.

Genome Hazard - Film Screenshot 12

Director Kim Seong-su ("The Flu", "Musa") knows his craft and delivers clean pictures with a slightly blueish tinge, but on the other hand he alienates with the almost amateurish way he presents some pieces of memories. In fact, the pictures make "Genome Hazard" truely look like a Japanese and Korean co-production, although most of the time Japanese is spoken throughout the film and the main part of the story is taking place in Tokyo. As already mentioned the action isn't convincing since it mostly consists of Ishigami running away from someone. He frequently mixes some chemicals, but his "MacGyver"-shenanigans don't really make the action any more interesting. It would have been better if the director had refrained from implementing any action scenes at all since they don't have the necessary kinetic energy.

Instead a more subtle focus on Ishigami's memories and the drama that result from them would have been desirable. The way Ishigami whinges about his situation looks too forced so that you can't emotionally relate to him. Accordingly, he can't really serve as a protagonist which is particularly a pity since Hidetoshi Nishijima ("Casshern") brings the needed charisma to screen. However, Kim Hyo-jin ("In My End Is My Beginning", "The Taste of Money") convinces. She even had to learn Japanese for her role. Her reporter keeps the story grounded, yet especially later on, concerning some revelations, it turns out that the story, based on a novel by Shiro Tsukasaki, is built on too many chance happenings that are hard to take serious. Moreover, the film actually turns out not to be a true sci-fi thriller, but more of a medical thriller.

Genome Hazard - Film Screenshot 13

Especially in the middle "Genome Hazard", for whatever reasons, loses pacing and many elements, like the countdown which is oftentimes displayed on screen, are leading you astray so that in the end you don't get the movie you were expecting. Unfortunately, director Kim doesn't deal with the story's themes appealingly enough, instead we are constantly served with memory pieces in the most confusing fashion and Kenji Kawai's soundtrack gives the impression of more action than is actually to be seen. "Genome Hazard" is a technically solid thriller which looks like quality cinema and particularly the main idea behind the plot is fascinating. However, the movie's themes around memories should have been illuminated more profoundly and the drama, going hand in hand with memory loss, should have been put more into the spotlight as well. There may be attempts to do so towards the end, but it's simply too late to bear any fruits.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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