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Murder, Take One - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Baksuchiltae deonara

South Korea 2005

Thriller, Comedy

Jang Jin

Cha Seung-won
Shin Ha-kyun
Jeong Dong-hwan
Shin Goo
Park Jeong-ah
Jang Young-nam
Kong Ho-seok
Ryoo Seung-ryong
Jeong Jae-yeong

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Murder, Take One

aka The Big Scene

Story: A woman is found dead in her hotel room. The police arrive at the scene only a few minutes later an manage to arrest the suspect Kim Young-hun (Shin Ha-kyun), who is carrying a gas can with him. The lead investigator Choi Yeon-gi (Cha Seung-won) interrogates Kim and is certain to have found the right guy. But a polygraph examination and new evidence make it hard to believe that he is guilty. Furthermore, the media is involved into the investigation of the case and the interrogation sessions with Kim and the questioning of other witnesses are broadcast nation-wide. The viewers have agreed by now that Kim is innocent, but Choi knows that the suspect is keeping a secret nonetheless. There are additional inconsistencies turning up in the case, eventually. A CCTV camera has been turned off for over half an hour and on the floor where the woman has been murdered a couple had rented a room who actually would have had a motive for a murder. Over and over again it becomes obvious that things are a little bit more complicated than first assumed and the pressure of the media, which demands some results, becomes higher by the minute.

Review: Jang Jin surely is one of the most interesting directors of Korea. His screenplays are innovative and if they hit the mark they do it right. Therefore, he has earned quite some kudos especially for his stories to movies like "Going by the Book" or "Welcome to Dongmakgol". Unfortunately, "Murder, Take One" is one of those works where Jang's eagerness to experiment is a little bit too much for his own good. The movie struggles for a consistent overall tone, yet doesn't manage to find it. What is striking after all is that the prevailing mood is astonishingly lighthearted and interspersed with comedy, even though the movie is clearly a crime-thriller in its core, which also has in store a few dramatic scenes. Despite all goodwill that you want to show the movie, the several parts simply don't gear into each other.

Murder, Take One - Film Screenshot 11

Really eye-catching is the technical realization, as it makes you believe at any time that the movie is from the 90s. A slightly grainy look, the aspect ratio and the colors as well as the soundtrack, that sometimes pushes itself into the foreground too much, are responsible for this impression. That is odd since the film is from the year 2005 and the events apparently aren't located in the past either. Whether it was Jang's intention or not, this creates a special mood that can be captivating. Sadly, the thriller is in dire need of that since it is otherwise clumsily told. Over and over again there are moments that stray off course of the actual story and that celebrate the filmmaker's supposedly great ideas. This especially applies to the jokes, of which some may be well done, others, however, just seem alienating and even create an awkward silence.

Murder, Take One - Film Screenshot 12

Some of those unusual scenes may have been intentional, yet they still seldomly work out. What's weighing even more heavy as a point of criticism is that "Murder, Take One" tries to be a media satire since the whole case is produced as a tv show. Nevertheless, this satire isn't continuously standing in the center, at times it seems that it simply has been lost sight of. Thus, this kind of satire is never truely convincing, even though Jang Jin managed to implement a socio-critical tone in his other works actually quite well. But maybe the director is too often standing in his own way. After all he is trying to pack too much into his thriller at the same time and it simply doesn't add up as expected.

Every now and then there are also some flashes of brilliance to be found and may it just be regarding the fantastically realized opening sequence in which we get an overview of the several hotel rooms from a bird's eye view. What's also laudable is the self-critical tone of Jang, with which he pokes fun at some of the characters or their actions. What's absolutely incomprehensible, though, is why towards the end a supernatural aspect had to be thrown into the thriller. Because of that the whole movie structure is about to collapse, but somehow it still manages to stand rooted on a wobbly groundwork that is the murder case. Nevertheless, you feel betrayed as a viewer.

Murder, Take One - Film Screenshot 13

Unfortunately, the characters introduced aren't of the kind you can actually cling to. Cha Seung-won ("Blades of Blood") plays an investigator who looks pretty wooden and only manages to leave his shell during a few small scenes. Still, he remains without any qualities. Shin Ha-kyun ("Save the Green Planet") has a few good moments, but he should have gotten a bigger role, because actually he is almost solely present during the first third of the movie. Yet, it has to be added that many of the supporting characters are likeable and seem interesting. Many of the jokes scattered throughout also leave no doubt that "Murder, Take One" is lighthearted entertainment, that at least features a few nice twists, but the film isn't as sophisticated as Jang Jin wants to make us believe. A pity.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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