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The Scent - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2012

Thriller, Comedy

Kim Hyeong-joon

Park Hee-soon
Park Si-yeon
Joo Sang-wook
Kim Jeong-tae
Lee Han-wi
Lee Gwang-soo
Cha Soo-yeon
Yoon Jae
Jo Won-hee

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The Scent

Story: Detective Kang Seon-woo (Park Hee-soon) works as a private eye who is specialized in men committing adultery, after having been suspended from police work as he committed adultery himself. The case he takes on three days before being reinstated as a police officer causes him quite some headache, though. Kim Soo-jin hires him to catch her husband red-handed cheating on her. Kang and she get comfortable in the hotel room next to that of the woman's husband and spend the night together. When Kang wakes up, Soo-jin is dead. He hears a scream from next door and when arriving there finds the body of the husband. The woman who is with him introduces herself as the real wife of the dead man. Her name is Kim Soo-jin (Park Si-yeon) as well. Kang knows that he has to get rid of the two bodies since all clues point at him and Soo-jin being the culprits. Only after having buried the bodies he can look for the true killer in order to prove his innocence. But during his investigation he starts a relationship with Soo-jin which doesn't make the case any easier...

Review: Erotic thrillers have to feature a well written plot, which, if possible, also has a few twists to marvel at. "The Scent" may have a few twists, but nothing seems seriously innovative. If there is anything original to talk about it would be the mix of thriller and comedy, but especially the comedic scenes don't fit seamlessly into the rest of the film and the more you become aware that the funny scenes aren't supposed to brighten things up, but in fact are part of the overall tone, the less "The Scent" works out. Moreover, not all gags manage to hit the mark and at times there are even grave flaws to be found in the dialogues, making them seem awkward from time to time as well.

The Scent - Film Screenshot 11

One aspect deserves some words of praise, though. The beguiling eroticism in the movie doesn't seem out of place at all, particularly not since it is at no time forced upon the viewer and thus you don't get the impression that the director simply wanted to make some easy money with some nude scenes involving Park Si-yeon ("A Love"). There is never too little nor too much to be seen during those scenes. But apart from the erotic scenes the flick simply lacks a story that tells something new. You have seen all of this before in some way or another. Soo-jin could be the victim or a cold-blooded femme fatale, yet we have to wait for developments or progress in the investigation for too long. Furthermore, you can't seriously claim that the resolution is truely surprising.

The Scent - Film Screenshot 12

Director Kim Hyeong-joon already managed to put together a good thriller for the big screen with "No Mercy" and this time his film is absolutely respectable on a technical level once again. Especially the erotic scenes are very skillfully captured. But the humor constantly comes across as an obstacle, standing too much in contrast to the rather dark mood. With some dark humor this maybe could have worked out, but the way it is odd scenes are constantly popping up leading to less than half of the jokes actually making you smile. It also seems rather heavy-handed to make the characters talk to themselves just to generate a few laughs - which doesn't work out nonetheless. Here, the problem arises, too, that the supporting characters sometimes seem to be written a bit too implausible and wacky.

It's not just Kang's sidekick that makes you scratch your head why he apparently had to be autistic, but there is also Kang's wife that turns out to be written too shallow and inauthentic. Particularly since the viewer can never take her serious as a policewoman. She always remains the (ex-)wife and nothing more is done with her. While there is no chemistry between her and Kang, things do click between Kang and Soo-jin at least. In fact it's Park Hee-soon's ("The Client", "The Showdown") effort that you manage to get past the more lengthy parts of the movie. He has the necessary charisma to carry the film and also undergoes a small character change. In the end, he can't hide the fact either, though, that the suspense shifts down a gear one time too many while you are wishing for some more original developments.

The Scent - Film Screenshot 13

Since the thriller aspects of "The Scent" don't excel at showing creativity there is only the atmosphere left that could captivate us. But as already stated this very atmosphere is often destroyed by humor which doesn't always fit in. So there actually is just naked skin serving as a silver lining after all. Director Kim Hyeong-joon apparently tried to bring a refreshing element into the movie with the humor. Instead, his film in fact might have benefitted from a more grittier approach and a more complex story. Towards the end you also get the feeling that you were robbed of a real showdown. Still, it's not hard to live with this anticlimax. However, the odd genre mix makes "The Scent" trip one time too many.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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