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(Movie Review) As comedy thriller, 'Desire to Kill' shines
By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- Memory can be unreliable, not to mention easily framed. When it comes to a pair of neurotic, and even amnesiac, patients sharing a mysterious past, in which their lives are at stake, memories can be further skewed and nothing may be as it appears.

   "Desire to Kill," directed by Jo Won-hee and Kim Sang-hwa, is an intricate thriller about guilt, revenge and memory loss that builds to a surprising yet logical end. And there is plenty of humor along the way that keeps the audience riveted.
Forlorn and bedridden from a stroke, the shrunken middle-aged man Min-ho (Chun Ho-jin) attempts suicide constantly in a small hospital room. One day, a new patient, Sang-eop (Yoo Hae-jin), arrives, and he remembers instantly what has happened between them. There is a snapshot of his distant memory: a young woman happily cuddles a little girl, but her smile disappears when Sang-eop appears with a knife.

   Unable to move his body except his hands, Min-ho sets out on a desperate quest to avenge his wife's death.

   Sang-eop has amnesia that makes it difficult for him to remember recent events. He is pushed out of bed and his face turns blue overnight as Min-ho secretly attacks him with whatever he can grab hold of, but the next morning, he remembers nothing.

   With the help of new, radical medicine prescribed by an unknown doctor, however, Sang-eop gradually recovers from amnesia and discovers the man lying in the next bed is his long-sought perpetrator.

   What ensues next is a series of deadly fights, and each scene of the two going at each other draws laughs. Cups are thrown, and ropes are flung as the two physically unable men make frantic efforts to kill each other. Fine acting amplifies the humor, as director Jo guaranteed in a press preview on Monday that the viewers will "see the best acting by the best actors in our country." A scene in particular makes good use of Yoo's trademark protruding mouth and a glob of jelly.

   No one else in the hospital notices their bloody fights, with the medical staff and patients engrossed by a baseball game on TV.

   Despite the humorous overtones, the film deals with serious questions. Who was the real perpetrator, and whose wife was murdered? How did they end up in the same hospital room after all?

   The film's minor flaw is that the answers are given in a long, uninterrupted piece of soliloquy, and that the audience suddenly has to piece things together. The suspense of anticipation cools off in the end.

   Overall, the thriller by the first-time directors shines with an intricate plot and quality acting, and has moral echoes of human nature: aggression toward others can be a veiled attempt to shield oneself against one's own guilt.

   "Desire to Kill," produced by Punchbowl and distributed by Lotte Entertainment, is set for a nationwide release on Aug. 26.

   hkim@yna.co.kr
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