‘Memories of Murder’ Movie Review: Early-Career Gem From Bong Joon-ho Re-Released
After he gifted them their biggest hit in history with 2019’s instant classic Parasite, it only makes sense that NEON, an independent film distributor, would try to milk director Bong Joon-ho for all he’s worth. Thankfully for audiences, Bong’s filmography is one well worth diving deep into.
NEON has seen fit to release a remastered Memories of Murder, Bong’s second full-length feature as a director and the film that laid the foundation for his reputation as a modern master of the craft. The movie itself is excellent, and a slick refining of its sound and visuals could go a long way in getting it to appeal to a younger, less niche audience than it has in the past.
Memories of Murder stars Bong Joon-ho usual suspect Song Kang-ho as Park Doo-man, a ne’er-do-well detective in a provincial Korean town. After the town is struck by a string of femicides, the eccentricities of detective Park and his colleagues come out in full force as the troupe tries to prevent any further murders without having much of anything to go on.
Fans of Parasite will recognize a key commonality between that film and this one: unprecedented levels of genre-juggling. Memories of Murder is ostensibly a police procedural, but it also manages to be funny, terrifying, emotional and harrowing all in turn. Park’s ineptitude is as much a source of comedy as it is a dispiriting reflection of how the safety of the public can be so easily mishandled.
If there is a single word to describe Memories of Murder, it’s haunting. The movie can seem like a jumble at first watch as it makes moment-to-moment tonal shift uncharacteristic of its ostensible genre, but after letting the film settle in, it lingers in the mind. The movie is many things, but it is one thing in particular that few other films are: a genuine consideration of failure. The world of cinema is full of success, or at least characters who succeed in gaining our sympathy — Memories of Murder does no such thing, instead opting to tell as a story about unsavory heroes way out of their depth.
Here’s to hoping that this rerelease gets this movie the canonical place it deserves. It may take a bit of getting used to stylistically, but the impacts of Memories of Murder will only be felt on the viewer long after its runtime expires.