Story: 22 years ago Tokyo was struck by a number of homicides. The victims were strangled to death in front of family members and the murderer messed around with the police. Wataru Makimura (Hideaki Ito) was one of the investigators and almost managed to apprehend him but in the end the murderer managed to escape. Because Makimura shot him, though, the investigator now was the murderer's next target. But instead of Makimura, his partner was killed in an explosion which was meant for him. Shortly afterwards, the killings stopped. 22 years later the case is still unsolved as suddenly Masato Sonezaki (Tatsuya Fujiwara) goes public with a book. He introduces himself as the serial killer from back then and discloses details in his book, which indeed only the real killer could know. As the statute of limitation period has lapsed, he does not have to fear any sort of legal prosecution. The statute of limitation law was abolished seven years ago but Sonezaki's murders still fall into this period, which makes it impossible for the police to arrest him. Sonezaki is celebrated like a star and the journalist Toshio Sendo (Toru Nakamura), who used to cover the murder story, wants to invite him to a TV interview. He doesn't believe Sonezaki and wants to expose him. Is the author maybe just pretending to be the murderer?
Review: Over the years I watched numerous movies and it is a huge advantage to just remember small stuff here and there. "Memoirs of a Murderer" was able to surprise me with its twists and turns, even though it is a remake of the Korean action thriller "Confession of Murder". The main premise is the same but there are some variations in the plot development, which are both positive and negative at times. On the one hand, the Japanese remake has a consistent tone and a dark, thriller-like atmosphere, whereas the original throws together a couple of genres (quite successfully, I would say, even if some other reviewers might disagree). On the other hand, the remake is also a little bit more easygoing. It digs for the psychological foundation of the story and tries to explore it. However, the movie barely succeeds doing so.
The plot unfolds in flashbacks and of course, at some point, you have to ask yourself whether Sonezaki is really the murderer or just somebody who wants to exploit the fame to sell his book. Even if that leaves some subtle suspense, the plot lacks the flair of the original's roller coaster ride. Everything seems a little bit more slow-paced and considerate, even if the last adverb doesn't really fit. The movie didn't seem to consider things all that much. If the goal was to add more depth to the story by portraying a psychological profile of the murderer, you have to ask yourself why they didn't flesh out the murderer's background story a little bit more. As a result, the movie takes itself rather seriously, which can get a little problematic when it comes to all the twists. No offense, but you can only take so many surprises and still find them believable. This limit is clearly exceeded here.
The original managed to cover up the credibility problem with its special kind of humor so that the end result was just fun to watch, and taking the concept of the movie into consideration it also came up with an intelligent script - or at least with a playful one. The tone of "Memoirs of a Murderer" is serious and it gets even darker with some violent strangulation scenes. The effect being that the rapid sequences of revelations appear almost unintentionally comical. Besides, the solution in the end drags on far too long and doesn't give enough satisfying answers about the murderer's motives, which we were kind of promised. That doesn't mean that the twists aren't entertaining but they are just a little bit too over the top. Unfortunately, because of the movie's serious tone the media satire doesn't come across as effective as it did in the original version: A murderer publishes a book and the public celebrates him like a pop star!
Tatsuya Fujiwara ("The Town Where Only I Am Missing", "Death Note") delivers a convincing performance as the killer. He walks the fine line between foresight and unpredictability. That his role stays in the dark for the most part is understandable, as the necessary mystery around him needs to be kept alive. Hideaki Ito ("Terra Formars") on the other hand, plays the police detective and simply lacks some sort of charisma. Makimura remains a shallow character and he sometimes even seems cold. However, we do get to see some emotions so that "Memoirs of a Murderer" at least doesn't turn out too unapproachable or sterile like other Japanese thrillers mostly do. At this point, it needs to be mentioned that the thriller doesn't stick out because of its direction, though. In terms of imagery, Yu Irie's remake is just unspectacular.
The plot develops steadily so that the tension is kept up and the movie always moves forward despite of its slow pacing. However, some flashbacks, which are supposed to remind us of important information given before and key scenes, do seem unnecessary. In the end, the thriller has a few problems because it takes itself too seriously and uses too many twists instead of fleshing out the thriller's motives, which could have made the remake stand its ground against the original. The finale is too tedious and misses some sort of substance, which the movie hinted at at the beginning. Despite all this - and despite all the harsh criticism from most reviewers - I agree with most non-professional movie critics who say that this is not really a remake absolutely necessary, but still, it focuses on other aspects of the story, even if the end result could have been more convincing. However, "Memoirs of a Murderer" is still quite entertaining.