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Norigae - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Thriller, Drama

Choi Seung-ho

Ma Dong-seok
Lee Seung-yeon
Min Ji-hyeon
Park Yong-soo
Seo Ho-cheol
Ki Joo-bong
Jang Hyeok-jin
Kim Kwang-yeong
Yang Yeong-jo
Hwang Tae-gwang
Lee Do-ah
Seo Tae-hwa

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Story: After the suicide of actress Jeong Ji-hee (Min Ji-hyeon) a giant scandal unfolds. Said to be responsible for her escape into death are sexual favors she had to do for and by order of her director. Therefore, prosecutor Kim Mi-hyeon (Lee Seung-yeon) brings a charge against director Choi (Jang Hyuk-Jin), the CEO of the movie company Gi (Hyoun Sung-Bong) as well as the boss of a big newspaper, Hyeon Seong-bong (Ki Joo-bong). Lee Jang-ho (Ma Dong-seok) once worked for Hyeon's newspaper himself, but now he is a freelancer. His investigation of the case puts the inexperienced prosecutor into a better position, but the defender (Park Yong-soo) is an experienced lawyer and also doesn't refrain from bringing to light the skeletons Kim might have in her closet if it benefits him. But prosecutor Kim becomes more determined with every cruel detail uncovered about the case. However, the case is still standing on shaky ground. Reportedly there is a diary of Jeong that could be the crucial evidence in the case.

Review: Despite a strong premise "Norigae" can't be the captivating court room thriller it would like to be. Nevertheless, you shouldn't deny the movie its strengths. The story, which is based on a true case, even though the introduction wants to tell us otherwise, has some depth to it and is shocking in the way it is presented without going overboard. However, there are obvious weaknesses becoming apparent on an emotional level as the movie certainly can't score there. It surely isn't necessary to move the audience to tears, on the contrary, with a story like this that would even seem pretty cheap, but the fact that you can't sympathize with any of the characters, apart from Ji-hee, actually harms "Norigae". The events are conveyed in a very cold fashion and accordingly the story is just simmering on the backburner.

Norigae - Film Screenshot 11

The movie's topic are the favors Korean actresses have to do drinking at Karaoke bars. Like escort ladies they are passed from their agent or director to high-ranking officials, politicians, bankers etc. The movie has been inspired by the suicide of actress Jang Ja-Yeon. No doubt, when the film deals with the fate of the actress it can be very captivating, which is also the effort of some slightly graphic depiction of sex scenes. Ji-hee's fate is pitiable and the trial once more proves how corruption undermines the Korean constitutional state. But sadly the story revolving around this isn't that convincing. Instead of weaving a good investigative thriller around the plot we often watch the trial unfold or follow a reporter who lacks real depth.

Norigae - Film Screenshot 12

Court room thrillers can in fact be enthralling as "Unbowed" or "Silenced" are obvious proof of, although latter one falls into that category only to a limited degree. But the reporter in "Norigae" follows small hints in a rather disconnected manner and steers the story to its resolution in a somewhat insecure way. Ma Dong-seok ("The Five") unfortuately doesn't manage to make his characer more interesting than the screenplay allows him to do and so the movie simply is in demand of a sympathetic individual. Lee Seung-yeon, who normally is only to be seen in supporting roles as in "Breathless", is especially stiff and she even has a few everything but convincing scenes in the court room.

Therefore, we only have the reporter to stick along. At least until we get a glance at Ji-hee's last days. Min Ji-hyeon delivers a great performance which makes it even the more unfortunate that we don't get to see more of her. The flashbacks are of course induced in the court room, yet they have no surprises in store. In the end the movie is also about certain individuals having to blame themselves for not hearing Ji-hee's cries for help and every one of them deals with this burden in another way. The true culprits seem to get away with what they have done, though, which once more underlines that with money and the right friends you have the freedom to do whatever you want in South Korea. That's nothing new, as we already know this, at the latest, from the aforementioned court room movies, but it still arouses outrage and anger.

Norigae - Film Screenshot 13

You can't deny that there is a certain naivity involved in the way the investigation is lead and at times this becomes really bothersome. Moreover, "Norigae" has real problems to get his story going, lingering in the court room for way too long. Also, you have to orient yourself in a real maze of names in the beginning, but at least here things become clear sooner than you would expect. Towards the end "Norigae" becomes really tough to watch, especially with the mood it creates through a few sex scenes, and during those dark moments the thriller is at its most convincing. More than that it's also when director Choi Seung-ho finally manages to emotionally involve the viewer. Thus, "Norigae" is a solid thriller, but there is yet the impression that with the story at hand you should have felt the obligation to get more out of the material.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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