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A Killer Paradox - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Sal-in-ja Nan-gam

South Korea 2024

Number of Episodes: 8
Thriller, Crime, Drama

Lee Chang-hee

Choi Woo-shik
Son Suk-ku
Kim Yo-han
Lee Hee-jun
Heo Sun-haeng
Oh Min-ae
Nam Jin-bok
Jung Yi-seo
Roh Jae-won

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A Killer Paradox

A Killer Paradox - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lee Tang (Choi Woo-shik) is anything but a diligent student. He keeps postponing his important exams and prefers to play with his cell phone or dreams of taking a trip to Canada. He also works in a convenience store. One day, he is accosted by a drunk person who is there with a friend. After his shift, Tang approaches the drunk person when he sees his supposedly unconscious friend in an alley. The drunk man reacts aggressively and attacks Tang. His whole life the boy was on the receiving end of situations like these, so he decides to fight back. But since there is a hammer involved, the man dies. Panic-stricken, Tang runs home, and even leaves the bloody hammer with his fingerprints behind. However, Tang finds out from the news that no weapon was found at the crime scene. In addition, it turns out that the drunk person killed his friend and that this was not his only murder victim. Despite this, Tang is still plagued by remorse. It soon becomes clear that the goosebumps that Tang got during the encounter with the drunk man is some kind of special power, as he only gets them when a murderer is nearby. In the meantime, Detective Jang Nan-gam (Son Suk-ku) investigates the case and soon suspects that there is a serial killer behind a series of apparently unrelated murders...

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Review: It's actually more of a coincidence that I've added a Korean series to my program again after quite some time. And it's only due to the peculiarities of "A Killer Paradox" that I stayed tuned. And that's actually meant in a good way. On the surface, it's a thriller drama, but soon aspects like guilt and responsibility are addressed, or the question is raised whether you have a responsibility at all if you have Lee Tang's psychic ability. Even though you never get the feeling that he's a superhero - otherwise he's just a normal teenager -, he still has a gift that can't be ignored. Because if he were to continue living a normal life, he would be burdening himself with the guilt of other deaths, which would actually be caused by the murderers he would let run free in this scenario. An extremely fascinating moral conflict, but one that is only hinted at. On the other hand, it becomes a bit clearer that Lee Tang could just as easily be seen as a villain too. It's a question of perspective.

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After a few episodes, another person comes to the fore. A "nerd" whose entire room is full of superhero characters - first and foremost Batman, of course. A superhero who takes matters into his own hands because no one else does it or is able to. Someone who therefore has to act in the shadows and who is hunted down for his vigilante justice. But Lee Tang can't be the "Dark Knight", he's too "normal" for that, and he doesn't have the emotional maturity to carry the suffering that comes along with it. But since circumstances keep pushing him to the limit, he seems like a broken boy at some point, a boy who only does what is necessary. It doesn't even seem like an impulse, but rather as if he were just going through the motions. This is what makes his character so fascinating and pitiful, but unfortunately, it also makes it difficult for us to identify with him. That's why we get Detective Nan-gam, who also carries his own demons.

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The detective is driven by an old case. His father was once beaten into a coma by an unknown man. Unfortunately, we just get short flashbacks to Nan-gam's childhood and therefore we only have an incomplete picture of his father, but the relationship is still important for the rest of the story. In general, you will be surprised how many storylines merge with each other in this series. Sometimes, you get the impression that certain developments were forcedly added afterwards, though. The nerd, whose entire world revolves around a superhero universe, unfortunately comes up short here. We learn too little about him and his motives. He sees himself as Robin but is more like a grey eminence in the background, if only he wasn't so young and nave. When it comes to his character, the series perhaps wasted most of its potential. Later, another killer, who previously worked for "Robin", is introduced, but things turn out to be more complicated than expected, and this eventually creates some suspense in the series.

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However, before the highly suspenseful developments of the last episode there is a rather long dry spell. The appearance of the former killer is like a turning point, as is the fact that Lee Tang goes into hiding. Until then, the teenager was a typical student, but suddenly not only his hairstyle changes, but also his expression, so that he actually looks like a gangster or killer (not exactly the best choice if you want to stay inconspicuous). And the bad conscience that Tang constantly has, and which still makes him seem human, also fades into the background. Choi Woo-shik, who has already appeared in "Parasite", does a solid to good job here, you certainly believe his performance of the broken boy, who has to kill but is anything but pleased with it. Still, apart from that, there isn't much left that would make his character stand out. That's a pity because there would have been more potential. Things are different with the detective. Son Suk-ku, the antagonist from "The Roundup", stands out with his subtle acting, but also has a few stronger emotional moments.

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"A Killer Paradox" tackles interesting topics, but not as profoundly as would have been desirable. For example, what if Tang had not just been able to recognize people who have killed already, but those who would kill in the immediate future (which would have drawn some inspiration from "Minority Report")? It's also a bit of a pity that the series with its eight episodes runs out of steam towards the end, but as mentioned before, the last episode more than makes up for it. But what makes the series good to begin with is that it takes a risk. It's different, starting with the music, which is sometimes unusual, but not bad. Same goes for the direction, and especially for the story and the way it is told. You never really know what to expect next. "A Killer Paradox" has its flaws, but it also doesn't strive to be perfect. On the other hand, the series offers innovation and suspense in all the right places, and sometimes even something to think about.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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