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(Movie Review) Clever scenario, polished production in thriller 'Secret'

All News 09:10 November 19, 2009

(ATTN: photos available)
By Shin Hae-in

SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Yonhap) -- A good thriller never reveals the identity of the killer to its audience until the very last moment. An excellent thriller is often more concerned with the "why" factor than the "who" factor.

South Korean thriller "Secret" presents an intriguing -- if slightly overlong -- mixture of the crime and procedural genres with some very convincing ticking-clock elements thrown in for good measure.

Instead of relying on supernatural elements or grisly imageries, "Secret" sticks to grim, human-fueled mayhem and manages to save itself a largely satisfying hook in its final reel that has to do with "why" and "how," instead of "who" and "where."

An underground loan shark is found dead, stabbed three times by a seemingly novice killer. Searching the crime scene, detective Seong-yeol (Cha Seung-won) finds evidence indicating his wife (Song Yoon-ah) met the man on the day he died.

The case becomes more complicated when the dead man is found to be the sibling of a notorious gang leader who is desperate to find the killer before the police do, for a brutal payback.

With gangsters close on his heels, Seong-yeol tries to destroy the evidence and protect his wife while questioning her for the reasons. The wife, Ji-yeon, appears almost nonchalant about the situation and refuses to reveal where she was on the day of the crime.

Creator of the original screenplay of "Seven Days," director Yoon Jae-gu again proves a good story can make up for almost anything.

The film should be lauded for many elements including its hyper-charged design, refined cinematography as well as stable acting by all cast, but its forte appears to be in the sophisticated manner it shows in bringing together the vast sprawl of characters and incidents as it winds its way to a conclusion.

"Each character in the movie hides a secret that only makes sense as a whole when all are added together," director Yoon said after the movie's Seoul preview Wednesday.

Yoon Jae-kyun, the director of summer box office hit "Haeundae," said he decided to produce the movie "as soon as" he read the screenplay.

"I personally think story is the key element in all thrillers," he said in an earlier interview. "The scenario of 'Secret' totally blew me a way. I could not figure out why the man was murdered until the very end."

The only problem is that the movie appears a little bit too long as the director apparently strives to squeeze in the stories of more than a few characters into a two-hour movie. Thus Yoon's modes of storytelling may make the movie seem like a drag for impatient audiences when losing viewer attention is poison in a movie that only makes sense when all details are added up.

Actor Cha and actress Song, two of the "most wanted" stars in Korean tinseltown, give "Secret" a nice, anchoring presence, but it is the supporting actors who deserve real credit.

The supporting actors, Park Won-sang, Kim In-kwon and Ryu Seung-ryong, play their roles as if they have been designed for them, breathing in life and even some humor into this dark movie.

Tech credits are also polished and efficient all round with the director and cinematographer giving the movie a modern, shimmering feeling. Director Yoon boasted the movie will seem no less polished than any U.S. crime hit.

"Secret," with a running time of 111 minutes, will hit the local theaters Dec. 3.


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