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Review: Confession of Murder (Fantasia)

Jul. 22, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Fifteen years after a serial killer's reign of terror seemingly comes to an end, a man named Lee Doo-seok (Park Si-hoo) comes forward, confessing to the crimes. Now that the fifteen year statute of limitations has passed, Lee doesn't have to worry about paying for his crimes, and after writing a tell-all confessional, he becomes an overnight celebrity and media darling. Meanwhile, the haunted detective, Choi (Jung Jae-young) whose fiancee was among the victims, is determined to find a way to make Lee pay for his crimes, if indeed Lee really is the killer after all.

REVIEW: If there's a genre that the South Koreans do particularly well, it's the thriller. Movies like THE CHASER and I SAW THE DEVIL are pitch-perfect action/thriller mash-ups, as good as-- if not better- than anything Hollywood has to offer, and CONFESSION OF MURDER is another really solid addition to the genre.

If CONFESSION OF MURDER had been made in Hollywood, it probably would have been a gritty, somber affair. Being South Korean, it takes the opposite tact. It opens with an amazing foot-chase through the rainy streets of Busan, that establishes right away that first-time director Jeong Byeong-gil is clearly a visual stylist with a flair for action, and that this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill procedural.  Despite the violent opening, the movie is loaded with humour and action and while the premise of a killer getting away with his crimes is nothing to laugh at, things are not as they initially seem, and Byeong-gil, who also co-wrote the screenplay, bombards us with enough twists and turns for three movies.

Mashing up genres is always tricky, but CONFESSION manages to keep a perfect balance throughout. If I SAW THE DEVIL was like SE7EN meets TAKEN, CONFESSION is like a seventies giallo movie, mixed with FAST 5, by way of Johnnie To's BREAKING NEWS. Sound crazy? It is.

There are two action setpieces in CONFESSION OF MURDER that absolutely dwarf anything I've seen in mainstream movies in years. The first happens early on, where Lee is kidnapped by a group of  his victims family members. They pose as EMT's and spirit him away in an ambulance, while they're chased by Choi, who's simultaneously trying to protect the man who probably killed his fiancee, while also trying to avoid hurting any of the kidnappers. It turns into a four-way highway car chase, where Lee jumps from car to car, fighting off his kidnappers, while his bodyguards try to save him. Unbelievable? Sure. But fun? Hell yes.

Even better is the movie's final chase, where Choi finds himself pursuing the movie's main baddie first by foot, then by car. After wrecking his car, he commandeers a truck to try and run down the dirt bike-riding villain. It pays homage to the great truck vs dirt-bike chase from TERMINATOR 2, only to suddenly switch gears and turn into a hyper-modern recreation of the famous truck scene from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, when Choi finds himself ejected from the truck, and having to fight his way back in. It's utterly ridiculous, but the stunt work is great, and the rabid Fantasia crowd was hooting and hollering throughout.

As a long-time fan of South Korean movies, it's always a lot of fun to sit down and enjoy one of their thrillers, as this seems to be a genre their directors have a natural flair for. CONFESSION OF MURDER is another top notch one, with the added attraction of this also functioning as a major action movie, with set-pieces that will knock your socks off. Hopefully some enterprising US distributor will give this a decent release, but if not I strongly advise you to try and track this down, especially if you're a fan of movies like THE CHASER and I SAW THE DEVIL. You won't be disappointed. You could literally do a scene-for-scene Hollywood remake of this, and it would probably gross hundreds of millions of dollars.

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