Though it borrows liberally from countless thrillers that came before it, Jeong Byeong-gil's Confession of Murder (2012) is a gripping, well-acted film that charges head-first with reckless abandon. This Korean import stars Jung Jae-young as Detective Choi Hyeong-goo, who failed to catch a serial killer after the death of ten women between 1986 and 1990. Fifteen years later, the scarred detective learns that the statute of limitations for these ten murders has expired, guaranteeing the killer's freedom. Soon enough, the confident and handsome Lee Doo-seok (Park Si-hoo, above) comes forward to confess, leading the press around while he sells copies of a tell-all book. Naturally, the public turns him into a superstar...but Choi hasn't given up yet, so he's determined to bring the killer to justice. Even if isn't Lee Doo-seok.
Much like the killer, unfortunately, Confession of Murder doesn't know when to quit. The much heralded action scenes (two in particular) are almost comical for all the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong: they're certainly well done and suspenseful, but these diversions add absolutely nothing to the story that would've been missed. The lone exception is Confession of Murder's opening chase sequence, a dimly-lit and rain-soaked alleyway chase that obviously owes a great deal to films like David Fincher's Se7en. It's essential to the movie's setup and, though a bit over-the-top, is still a fantastic bit of filmmaking that kicks things off nicely. The plot twists along the way are yet another case of "too much of a good thing": a major revelation at the halfway point is somewhat unexpected and perfectly timed, but the second major twist is, like several of the action sequences, needlessly complex. Overall, these weaker elements could've easily been trimmed to reveal a tighter, more grounded film...unless, of course, that's not what you're in the mood for.
Fortunately, the three leads are what gives Confession of Murder the bulk of its weight, suspense and accessibility. Jung Jae-young is particularly impressive as Detective Choi, a brash and uncontrollable man who, despite some of his character's vigilante clichés, feels like a perfect straight man for the chaos unfolding around him. The handsome young Park Si-hoo, portraying the confident, charismatic Lee Doo-seok, makes his film debut with style to spare. Jeong Hae-gyoon also does a fine job with his portrayal of the mysterious "J"; it's a ruthless, magnetic third-act performance that changes the film's character dynamics almost immediately. Together, they create a terrific framework for Confession of Murder's story to frame itself around and, with few exceptions, the film speeds along nicely because of their efforts.
Import specialists Well Go Entertainment bring Confession of Murder to Region "A" Blu-ray and, appropriately enough, it looks and sounds terrific. The extras are a bit lacking, but an extremely low pre-sale price ($9.96, as of this review) should hopefully move a lot of units. Though the film's less impressive elements prevent a stronger recommendation, Confession of Murder is still a gripping, suspenseful production that should appeal to followers of Korean cinema.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Without a doubt, this 1080p transfer of Confession of Murder, framed at 2.35:1, is a very strong effort and translates nicely to home video. Black levels are deep and inky, even during the opening scene's nighttime downpour. The film's stylized color palette holds up nicely, often favoring cooler tones without feeling too saturated or unnatural. Textures and overall image details are also strong, whether in tight close-up or wider shots. Digital issues (including excessive DNR, edge enhancement, interlacing and compression artifacts) did not seem to be an issue here, rounding out the visual presentation nicely. From start to finish, this is an extremely impressive effort that fans should appreciate.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.
The audio is another highlight, as long as you choose the original Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (a separate 2.0 option is available, but it's compressed to Dolby Digital). Confession of Murder features a deep soundstage at times, though the majority of the film's 120-minute running time is centered up front. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand, Kim Woo-geun's score adds occasional weight and the sporadic, over-the-top action sequences come alive with strong channel separation. Optional English subtitles have been included during the film and all applicable bonus features.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The clean, basic interface is attractive and easy to navigate, though the text is quite small. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase and includes no slipcover or insert material. Individual sub-menus have been included for chapter selection, audio/subtitle setup and bonus features. The disc appears to be locked for Region "A" players only.
Not much, but at least there are a few scraps. These include a very brief Behind-the-Scenes
piece (5 minutes) which includes brief cast and crew interviews, as well as a few glimpses at the action sequences being filmed. Also here are separate Interviews
with Jung Jae-young (Detective Choi, 2 minutes) and Park Si-hoo as (Lee Doo-seok, 3 minutes), as well as the film's Theatrical Trailer
(2 minutes). English subtitles have been included for translation purposes only.
Gritty, mysterious and intriguing, Jeong Byeong-gil's Confession of Murder is also frustrating in its occasional lack of self-control and focus. The ambitious action scenes and wild twists often undercut the capable story underneath, though the committed lead performances anchor some of the film's weaker moments. In any case, this is still a solid thriller and holds some replay value, enough to satisfy followers of Korean cinema and fans of the cast. Well Go Entertainment's Blu-ray offers a modest amount of support, mainly through the terrific A/V presentation. It's currently on pre-sale at Amazon for under $10, making Confession of Murder a safe bet for interested parties. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.