DARK FIGURE OF CRIME (암수살인) (2018)

Genre: Crime/Thriller
Director: Kim Tae-gyoon
Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Ju Ji-hoon, Moon Jung-hee, Jin Seon-kyu, Jung Jong-joon
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 15 November 2018

Synopsis: Hyung-min (Kim Yoon-seok) is a prominent police detective who lives to solve criminal cases. With the help of an informant, he meets Tae-oh (Ju Ji-hoon) who claims that he was hired to kill someone 10 years ago. Just when he is about to confess where he buried the body, another team of police detectives snatch him away for an arrest. A month later, Tae-oh calls Hyung-min from prison and confesses that he actually killed 6 more people and will give him clues if he visits.

Movie Review:

Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Yoon-seok are the gems in this crime drama that touches on unaccounted, unreported violent crimes in Korea, an immensely relevant yet forgotten social issue. 

Kim Hyeong-min (Yoon-seok) is a seasoned narcotics officer who stumbled upon a cold-heartened murderer, Kang Tae-oh (Ju Ji-hoon) while investigating another unrelated case with his informant. Months later, Tae-oh called up Hyeong-min from his cell to confess that including the one he was caught for, he had murdered a total of seven persons in the past. Intrigued by Tae-oh, Heyong-min decides to transfer to Homicide division to take up Tae-oh’s so-called unresolved murder cases. 

But despite Heyong-min’s interrogation and bribes, Tae-oh seems to be biding time by constantly providing Heyong-min with false clues and leading him in circles. Is Tae-oh the real serial-killer? Is he an epitome of evil or a great manipulator of facts? What is his intention? Kim Tae-gyoon’s Dark Figure of Crime will keep viewers guessing from start to end although those looking for sequences of violent bloodshed and heart-pounding action should dial down your expectations. 

Not be confused with Song Kang-ho from The Host, Kim Yoon-seok actually first garner international attention for his acclaimed performance in The Chaser. A somewhat quiet, subtle actor, Yoon-seok puts in yet another strong performance as the persistent detective who is not even seen smoking, swearing or drinking throughout the entire movie (a rare occurrence in Korea’s modern-day detective thrillers). He is simply an ordinary man who had lost his wife in a tragic hit-and-run accident years ago and here he is (though with a rich background) struggling to deal with Tae-oh’s inconsistency statements and bizarre behavior.  

Pitting against Yoon-seok is Ju Ji-hoon last seen in Along With The Gods series. Ji-hoon is incredible as the psychopathic killer, probably his career-best. Without being over-the-top in terms of performance, he is able to single-handedly steal the show from his much veteran counterpart with his portrayal of this troubled character, a victim of an abused father and built-up resentment against society. And to top it off, since much of the exchanges took place in a holding area between Hyeong-min and Tae-oh with the occasional insertion of flashbacks, the success of the entire crime drama relied heavily on the dialogues and performances of the two leads which of course is a triumph for a director helming his sophomore effort.

As this is a title which is based on actual events, there were some initial controversies surrounding Dark Figure of Crime prior to its release in local theatres one which had relatives of deceased victims suing the producers. The move eventually turned out to be a free marketing gimmick for the movie which has since became quite a hit in Korea and Taiwan. Other than some slight draggy moments midway, there are a few courtroom scenes which highlight the frustration and limitations of modern-day law court proceedings. In a way, it’s a grim reminder that loopholes can still be exploited by criminals especially with slimy individuals liked Tae-oh. 

Again, this is not a movie that contains a clear-cut conclusion if you are expecting the ending to shed lights on the issue of unsolved crimes and the Korea judicial system. When it comes to a complex court case, there’s definitely no black and white certainties it seems. While Tae-oh did got the punishment he deserved in the end, there are still many unaccounted crimes on Yoon-seok’s list. The credits might have rolled but the real Kim Yoon-seok is still chasing after clues and leads on the rest of the missing personnel.

Movie Rating:

(A grim compelling crime drama with strong performances, catch Dark Figure of Crime if you prefer something that is both relevant to today’s society and intellectually stimulating)

Review by Linus Tee


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