Memories of Murder (2003)

memories of murder poster 2003 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good looking, good cast


Movie Info

Movie Name: Memories of Murder

Studio: CJ Entertainment

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  May 2, 2003 (South Korea)/May 16, 2003 (Cannes)/July 15, 2005 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

memories of murder song kang ho kim sang kyung

Hey maybe we can be like Lethal Weapon? I can be the whacky over the edge guy!

Murders are plaguing a small South Korean town, and the police aren’t in a position to handle the investigation.  Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) believes he can root out a killer by looking in his eyes, but thus far, the approach hasn’t worked.  When Seoul detective Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung) is assigned the case, he brings big city logic to the investigation…which leads to friction with Park Doo-man.  The murderer is continuing to kill, and young women are the target.  The police are baffled, but a pattern is forming.

Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (with addition writing by Shim Sung-bo), Memories of Murder (살인의 추억 or Sarinui chueok) is a South Korean murder-mystery drama.  Following Bong Joon-ho’s first film Barking Dogs Never Bite in 2000, the movie is based on the real life murders in the Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province which occurred between 1986 and 1991 and adapts the 1996 stage play Come to See Me by Kim Kwang-rim.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1073).

I like Bong Joon-ho a lot…and I like him enough to trust him.  Memories of Murder was a blind buy.  I hadn’t seen it and bought it on reputation only…and it was worth the investment.  The film is an unusual police investigation where things don’t go as you’d expect.

memories of murder killer in field

Why does it feel like somebody’s watching me?

Bong Joon-ho was partially inspired by From Hell by Alan Moore and the movie does have a similar tone as the graphic novel.  Like From Hell which follows the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders, Memories of Murder has no real answers.  Similar to Fincher’s Zodiac, the movie is largely about the investigators, the investigation, and what being surrounded by darkness can potentially do to someone.  While Park Doo-man seems to mature and become a better officer through the movie, Seo Tae-yoon is shattered by becoming too involved…leading him to almost make a fatal mistake.  Meanwhile, a killer stalks the streets and almost seems to be mocking the police with his rather blatant crimes.

Song Kang-ho is great as the rather cocky local cop who thinks he knows how to handle a big city murder.  His approach is brash, and he expects results like in TV shows where a suspect gushes the truth, and he books them.  It just doesn’t work out that way for him, and he starts to realize it through the course of the story.  Kim Sang-kyung is a different kind of attitude.  He has worked big crimes and has some knowledge under his belt which he seems to wave in front of the “local guys” through his silence and cock-sure behavior.  This behavior breaks him though when he is sure that he finally has the guy and the proof isn’t there.

memories of murder train tracks ending

These crimes will end one way or another

Visually the movie is great.  The tone and visuals of the movie demonstrate a control that many people setting films in older decades do not get.  They can have a sense of nostalgia, but they don’t have to force it on the viewers.  The film has some rather creepy moments including tracking a potential killer at the crime scene and the murderer stalking his victim from the fields on a rainy night…Bong Joon-ho gets the tone right.

Memories of Murder ends with a question mark that people familiar with the case would have probably already known (much like an American watching Zodiac).  There was no solution to the crimes and the murderer was still out there…leaving a creepy “someone is watching over your shoulder” type feeling.  In 2019, Lee Choon-Jae was connected to the real murders in Hwaseong…it wouldn’t have really added to the story, and Bong Joon-ho’s more enigmatic ending still stands strong.  Bong Joon-ho followed Memories of Murder with his crossover hit The Host in 2006.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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