Private Eye 그림자 살인 (2009)
It is Funny.
An effort made to entertain like one made here in the West, Private Eye squanders a potent plot on too much leading and little reveal, confused with what it wants to be. I wanted to like this movie, but it leaves much to be improved upon. I just wasn’t left wanting to rewatch it or follow the characters for another adventure.
The plot brings us behind medical student, Jang Gwang-soo, played by Ryu Deok-hwan, who finds himself in a bit of a legal jam. Desperate to find a human body for surgical studies, familiarity with anatomical details and the like, he has recently stumbled upon then seemed blessing with a bloated corpse wrapped and left for the buzzards, strewn and decomposing within the nightly woods, a test subject at last. When the papers put up a reward for information on an official’s missing son, already assumed dead, Jang Gwang-soo recognizes the missing person to be none other than his recent project man. He worries (rightly so) that the law will find him guilty, all the evidence already proving his innocence an unlikely one. The body is still in his basement.
I would imagine you just cannot form a solid alibi when you have a dead man’s entrails in personal observational vats, and he will need some experienced assistance with clearing his name from the suspect roster. He enlists the help of quirky, good hearted, sometimes selfish, private eye, Hong Jin-ho, played by Hwang Jung-min, trying to earn enough money with his yellow journalism and investigation practice to head to the West and find a new life. A Sherlock H. plot copy ensues, whether you like that or not.
It’s all played too much to make the British & American version’s god-like, too idolized, the sidekick doctor, the attention to small detail, exotic esque varieties of people, the time frame, all of it. It’s everything to be like the West’s Holmes persona. And it doesn\’t do much good that it follows in the same style of Guy Ritchie’s recent adaptations, to tilt the camera and make it flair. It just doesn\’t work.
I would like to say it redeemed itself with its choice of making the cinematography wild and unhinged, to try something exciting, but it wasn\’t pleasurable. Rather, it made scenes nauseating. We’re left trying to make sense of it (and not wanting to). Then they hope for us to chuckle, many snide or crassly comical cracks falling flat, a lot of cricket chirps. You cannot slowly creep into a scene like that of a pervert, giving us the belief of a deeper gift for storytelling, an underlying complexity in film technique,and then pull out your ADHD card. Keep a focus. Jokes, for this material? Why, it was a good lead in. Finish it. It’s end is very different from its lead into things. I am left with a foulness to remember. It\’s all confusing, and not in a good overlapped, “I think this or that, perhaps it\’s open-ended avant-garde” sort of way. You just want to get it over with.
What is really disappointing is this film has a wonderful premise to develop a story, but much is left to the imagination of the viewers to recreate at home. The film cannot deliver. With a story of a young man needing desperately to find a dead subject for studying the living, it should be sinister and macabre, a wonderful, engaging horror story, leaving most of needed humor for release of tension. It remains on the ground, almost afraid to break an assumedly large budget of contracts or early obligations to just stick with it; they just cannot change what they had pitched. But why should we have to suffer for it? It never really is jumping to something higher, although it leads you on to believe it just may.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, learning some of the rise in popularity of detective stories during the open of the 20th century, this may spark an interest. Also, there are some neat steampunk gadgets that remind of the Bond: Q relationship in the long stretch of British espionage films. Really though, much other points are too vague or intentionally unoriginal to ask for further criticism.
It could have explored much on the presence of Japan in Southern Korea too. Give us more insight on a turn of a century, technology and medicine finally evolving to the entity we know today. Alas, it did not, and I\’m looking for another film to play. A man\’s got a specific appetite, and this recipe I did not enjoy.
The Eastern films have always fascinated me for remaining innovative, using tried slates for story that details can add upon, making it fresh. But when I find films such as this that try to garner quirky admiration from large audiences like those found here in the States, I am disheartened. Please don’t try this again. Good effort though, I suppose.