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‘Memoir Of a Murderer’ (review)

Produced by You Jeong-hun, Won Shin-yun
Written by Hwang Jo-yun, Won Shin-yun
Based on A Murderer’s Guide to Memorization
by Kim Young-ha

Directed by Won Shin-Yun
Starring Sol Kyung-Gu, Kim Nam-Gil,
Kim Seol-Hyun, Oh Dal-Su,
Hwang Seok-Jeong, Gil Hae-Yeon


The IMDB description of this film says; A former serial killer with Alzheimer’s fights to protect his daughter from her psychotic boyfriend.

This Korean film is an interesting study into one man’s descent into madness. Byung-su is a retired serial killer veterinarian with Alzheimer’s who has a grown daughter, Eun-hee.

The daughter begins seeing a police officer Tae-ju and Byung-su recognizes some disturbing traits in his daughter’s new love.

A predator can always recognize another predator.

Imagine the meticulous precision of a serial killer. If Dexter taught us anything, it’s that the process of killing matters almost as much as the killing itself. So when a killer no longer has control over his own mind, no longer can execute against his meticulous process, no longer can control his violent urges, what happens next? Mix in some hallucinations, misdirection and a generally confusing narrative and the answer is… I have no idea.

The film plays a lot like an extended Dexter episode, with Byung Su’s code of serial killer ethics seeming very close to good ole Dexter Morgan. There is also a heavy interior monologue from Byung-Su, so unless you speak Korean you are going to be a lot of time reading him explore his own broken mind. There are definitely aspects borrowed from Memento, too. It’s extremely derivative throughout and you can see where director Shin-yeon Won was clearly influenced by previous content in the serial killer space.

The acting is very good. I find that with sub-titled films it can be hard to tell if the acting is good or not because my focus is on the text and not the delivery.

However, Kyung-gu Sol (Byung-su) and Nam-gil Kim (Tae-ju) are both excellent. Sol delivers true emotion and frustration as he tries to cope with his cognitive decline as his world unravels. Kim’s dead eyes and emotionless delivery gives the viewer a sense of dread. Seol-Hyun Kim (Eun-hee) turns in a credible performance but she is more the orbital center of the story than having a particularly big role.

The technical side of the film is excellent. Shot choices all make sense. The action is well choreographed and credible and the editing is excellent. The color schemes are muted. While I don’t know for sure I think they may have been a symbolic choice of the filmmaker to signify the fading light of Byung-Su’s mind. I really enjoyed the visual aspects of the film. Everything fit really well. If you are a film fan that notices cinematography, angles, tone and texture there is a lot to enjoy here, even if the story is lacking at times.

The film is too long. At two hours there are moments it seems to drag. I think this is largely because of the long narrative expositions of the interior monologue of Byung-su.

At first I didn’t mind them too much but they went on and on. They can be very confusing at times and don’t always move the story forward. You really need to pay careful attention to “get” this film.

Overall, it isn’t a bad film by any means. It has an adequate psycho-serial killer story mixed in with the dementia angle. The characters are believable and the acting is very good, bordering on excellent. If you like international films, you will really enjoy this. If you don’t mind subtitles and like serial killer movies, you might love this movie. I would expect, if you speak Korean you would get a lot more out of it than I was able to.

Either way, it’s a solid effort.

3 out of 5 stars.

Memoir Of a Murderer is available now, exclusively on Digital HD


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