Byung-su is an elderly veterinarian who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He has a caring daughter who does all she can to make his life easier, and a policemen friend whose name Byung-su forgets from time to time. He also goes to a poetry club (in order to keep his mind exercised) where a lonely widow makes advances at him. But there’s one thing that sets Byung-su apart from the other senior citizens of his little town – he is a serial killer.
When a new wave of killings begin Byung-su starts to suspect that a young man who is dating his daughter is the culprit. Trying to keep the remains of his memories together Byung-su writes extensive journals. But what if his memories are actually real? Losing his grip on reality he goes head to head with the new serial killer in order to protect the only life he cares about in the world – his daughter’s.
Before Dexter came around Koreans had excelled in creating charismatic killers as protagonists of the films (“Sympathy for the Devil” probably being the most famous example), but there’s little to like in our hero of “MEMOIR OF A MURDERER”. But his current goal is a noble one, thus begins the labyrinthine tale of murder and revenge, as the two “professional” killers try to out-do and out-smart each other, constantly putting doubt into the viewer’s mind - what is real or what is the product of imagination of Byung-su’s broken psyche?
Based on a bestselling novel in South Korea MEMOIR OF A MURDERER boasts a solid plot, a complicated protagonist and some great performances. Whilst the identity of the killer is always in the open, the movie is cleverly playing with the impact that Byung-su’s illness has on the story, and watching him slipping in and out of dementia in the most crucial moment of the storytelling is both frustrating and terrifying.
The movie’s atmosphere of a sleepy country town, constantly wrapped in fog, creates a perfect sense of danger. The grand finale is a bloodbath and the ending, typical for Korean films (and the reason for me loving them so much), slips into a pure melodrama, with a few genuinely touching, sentimental moments.