Genre: Thriller Director: Kim Hyoung-jun Cast: Park Hee-soon, Park Si-yeon, Joo Sang-wook RunTime: 1 hr 58 mins Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes) Released By: Shaw Official Website:
Opening Day: 6 September 2012
Synopsis: Detective Kang Sun-woo who specializes in Adultery cases is running a private detective agency while he’s on suspension. He’s hired for a case with 3 days before his reinstatement He calmly enters the motel to catch the scene but what he finds at the scene is two dead bodies. The only witness is Soo-jin, the wife of the dead man. Now Sun-woo is in danger of ending up as a prime suspect. Sun-woo tries his best to find the real killer but the situation only gets worse. To top it all, Sun-woo falls into a dangerous relationship with Soo-jin who possesses provocative beauty and the situation gets more complicated. All Sun-woo wanted was to make few bucks out of other people’s problems. But now he’s a murder suspect. Will he be able to prove himself innocent?
You’ll probably be of one of two reactions after seeing the poster for ‘The Scent’ – one, you’re thinking that you must watch it for Park Si-yeon, the ravishing beauty doing a Demi Moore-like ‘Striptease’ pose; two, you’ll dismiss it as yet another skin flick, the kind meant to draw the crowds at the infamous Yangtze cinema. If you fall into the latter camp, then we’re here to stop you from dismissing this thriller a little too quickly – yes, it does have a generous bit of skin in it, but trust us when we say that its pleasures aren’t quite so superficial.
Only writer/ director Kim Hyoung-jun’s sophomore film, it is a surprisingly satisfying blend of the thrilling, the erotic, and rather unexpectedly the darkly funny. Framed around a murder mystery, the story at its core has a police detective named Kang Sun-woo (Park Hee Soon) racing against time to clear his name after waking up one night next to a dead woman in a hotel room. Not only does he have to stay one step ahead of his colleagues – especially the hard-nosed Seo (Kim Jeong Tak) – he also has to figure out whether the irresistibly alluring Kim Su-Jin (Si-yeon) is his ally or his enemy.
Unlike the typical South Korean crime thriller however, Hyoung-jun literally turns up the heat by injecting a fair amount of eroticism. Sun-woo turns out to be no ordinary detective, but one just resuming duty after a two-year suspension following his affair with a police chief’s wife. His predicament also came to be only because he has been moonlighting as a private detective tracking (ironically) adulterous spouses, this time trailing Su-Jin’s apparently philandering husband whom he also finds dead in the next room. And boy does it sizzle when Sun-woo and Su-jin get together – the reason why this film gets the highest R21 rating – the former barely able to keep his head together when she flirts with him.
You might think that with so much crime and passion swirling around, this is going to be a grim sober viewing experience. We thought likewise too, but Hyoung-jun directs the proceedings with some well-placed humour. Instead of playing it dead serious therefore, Sun-woo’s nervous anxiety is bound to make you crack up as you watch how his previously cocksure attitude dissolves into timid insecurity. The supporting characters also lighten the atmosphere – including Sun-woo’s bumbling sidekick Gi-pung (Lee Gwang Su) and his trusting policeman partner Han Gil-ro (Joo Sang-wook).
It’s a tricky juggling act keeping the drama, comedy and the erotic in balance within the same movie, but Hyoung-jun pulls it off with aplomb. The central murder mystery keeps you guessing until the very end, the sexual tension between Sun-woo and Su-jin crackles with passion and intensity, and the bits of comedy let you catch your breath along the way. Credit goes to Hyoung-jun for not sacrificing style over substance, and the tightly woven plot that gives just the right amount of detail and attention to characters large and small is a testament to that.
In no small measure, Hyoung-jun owes the success of his movie to his ably chosen cast, all of whom we are happy to report have been selected based on their aptitude. Hee-soon may not be a recognisable name here, but his brazenly charismatic performance here is one of the reasons why the movie remains compelling throughout. As the pressure turns on his character, Hee-soon’s increasingly edgy portrayal is riveting to watch. You’ll find it hard too to take your eyes off Si-yeon, who pulls off one of the most memorable femme fatale roles in recent cinematic memory. She is captivating to say the least, and her seductive turn after largely TV drama roles is certain to raise the pulses of guys in the audience. The chemistry between Hee-soon and Si-yeon is sizzling, and if you had belonged to the former camp who are watching the movie largely for these scenes of passion, rest assured that you won’t be disappointed.
But really, this review is meant for those who are likely to avoid this Korean thriller with the impression that it is nothing more than a softcore porn flick masquerading as a legitimate movie. Ironically, the attention-grabbing poster might just turn discerning viewers away from a well-crafted movie that is tense, taut and for the lack of a better word hot-blooded. And if you need one more reason to catch it in the cinemas, then remember this – it’s rated R21 in its full glory, so you won’t be able to see it in the comfort (and perhaps privacy) of your home anytime soon
(More than just a skin flick no matter what the poster implies, this is one heady concoction of mystery, comedy and the erotic in one tense, taut and utterly riveting package)