Danny Webster’s review published on Letterboxd:
Joon-ho Bong's Memories of Murder is THE film that made me really interested in film as a whole, whilst those years ago I was not aware enough to understand the socially significant messages. Considering this film is based on the real-life serial murders between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaesong, Gyeonggi Province. Surrounding Seoul and at the heart of Suwon.
Whilst these little details may seem pointless in regards to mentioning them, they can be deciphered as important for the sake of importance. Within the film issues such as the involvement of police officers, as instead they deal with riots in Suwon rather than dealing with the imminence of a murder.
Director Joon-ho Bong does dramatize the actual events a little, focusing on the small-group of investigators within a small department, Detective Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) represents the average rural population of the time, fairly uneducated and reliant on intuition, assumptions and whether or not men are shaved downstairs. Many have argued that Doo-man is unlikable since his abusive nature is highlighted early on but there becomes a moment when you feel sorry for him, sympathise with him. His situation is not his fault but just a result of the society he lives in.
Questions on whether he is a homosexual are redundant and quite frankly pointless in my opinion, his relationship with brother-like colleague and fellow abuser Detective Cho Yong-koo give an interesting aspect and work as the original status of South Korean detective work.
The arrival of Seoul hotshot Detective Seo Tae-yoon creates a competitive rivalry with Doo-man as they try to use their methods of investigation to better each other as well as representing the American way of investigation - hard facts, documenting and evidence are all the needs and musts for this particular brand of detective.
These characters are the most interesting in the film, as the serial killers characteristics and modus operandi become second fiddle to the identification of the serial killer. The desperate and inpatient desire to simply save those of potential risk. The wife of Doo-man for example, whose role as residential healer and generally lovely neighbour to everyone feels the exact loneliness Doo-man was exposed to at the beginning of the film.
Whilst there are what seems to be a few red herrings chucked into this film, Joon-ho Bong leaves a bread-crumb trail of evidence and knowledge for the viewers to investigate in the same manner as the detectives. Essentially we know as much as they do and we are given the same information as they are.
The soundtrack to Memories of Murder is aptly haunting and coinciding with the perfect use of cinematography and framing, there is a scintillating atmosphere here that works really well. Song Kang-ho's performance is particularly outstanding as not only does he bring among his best performances (Along with his role in Park Chan-wook's JSA: Joint Security Area) but he also happens to be my favourite actor.
One of my favourite films ever and arguably my favourite Korean film, Memories of Murder provides the mystery, thrills and excellent ending that rivals Se7en as among the greatest serial killer films in modern times.