Memories of Murder (2003), Channel 4, Film 4, Director Bong Joon-ho, Screenplay by Bong Joon-ho, Shim Sung-bo.

Most of my writing is in Scottish Noir. In other words, if you’re waiting for a happy ending, watch The Waltons. Memories of Murder is South Korean Noir, directed and written by Bong Joon-ho. Largely based on investigation into the unsolved rapes and murders of young women that took place in Hwaseong in the late 1980s.

In October 1986, a woman’s body is found under a drain next to a field in the opening scenes. Song Kang-ho as Park Doo-man, the lead detective in the rural province, notes that her hands are bound and her panties have gagged her. Another body similarly gagged, raped and murdered is in the field nearby. He’s no expert. But even he notes how slipshod and haphazard forensics are in documenting and decoding the murders.

 Park Doo-man experience has been with petty crimes and criminals. His success rate so far he claims is down to his ability to look someone in the eye and know if they’re innocent or guilty. He and his partner have developed a good cop and bad cop routine in dealing with such crimes and criminals. Kim Roi-ha as Cho Yong-koo, Park’s partner comes late to the interview room and starts beating a submission of guilty out of the perpetrator.

When Jeon Mi-seon as Kwok Seol-yung, Park Doo-man’s girlfriend-and then wife- gives Park Doo-man a tipoff that a  scarred, mentally-handicapped boy, Baek Kwang-ho, used to follow the victim around town because she was so pretty, the lead detective arrests him and they have their killer. After serving him noodles and then beating him up, Baek Kwang-ho agrees that he is the killer and signs a confession.

Seo Tae-yoon, a detective from Seoul with more professional training in crime scene analysis, has been brought in to assist them. While the local detectives are celebrating and open-and-shut case and how they intend it to stay closed, Seo Tae-yoon points out the obvious difficulty of a lad with webbed fingers being unable to tie complex knots that bound the victims. He suggests they release him and not make a fool of themselves. But it’s too much to ask of our incompetent heroes.

Seo Tae-yoon proves correct, of course. He also makes another grim prediction. There’s another body out there they’ve yet to find. The rapist-murderer strikes on rainy nights, which has already happened. And he targets young women wearing red. A siren song played on the local radio station also signalled the disappearance of the young woman.

It’s cops against the killer and a race against time. And when they inadvertently, together and apart, stakeout the gypsum mine where much of the activity is located, they spot a man masturbating and give chase.

Nothing as simple as beating a confession out of a suspect works as well as it did in the good old days. Well worth watching.