Crime, Drama, Films, Recommended posts, Reviews, South Korea

Missing You

A young woman plots revenge on the serial killer who murdered her father…

Best known for her comedy roles in the likes of Miss Granny and Sunny, Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung tries her hand at something very different in screenwriter Mo Hong-jin’s directorial debut Missing You. While its English title may suggest a sappy romance (its translated title, Waiting for You, is somewhat more fitting), the film is in fact a dark and grim serial killer drama, with Shim playing a young woman plotting violent revenge on the man who murdered her father.

The film opens with a young girl called Hee-joo suffering the trauma of her Police Chief father being killed by the singularly nasty Ki-bum (Kim Sung-oh, The Man from Nowhere), a homicidal madman with a list of seven apparent victims. Despite the best efforts of Detective Dae-young (Yoon Je-moon, The Great Actor), a lack of evidence results in Ki-bum only being convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, receiving a much lighter sentence. The action skips forward 15 years to the time of his release, which coincides with the beginning of series of suspiciously similar killings, giving Dae-young the excuse to get back on his trail. Meanwhile, Hee-joo has been biding her time during his incarceration, and sets in motion a bloody plan of retribution.

For his first outing as director, Mo Hong-jin sticks to what he knows, the film having a number of similarities with Our Town, a serial killer drama which he scripted back in 2007 for helmer Jung Gil-young. With Our Town not being as well-known as it probably deserves to be, this isn’t really much of a criticism, and Missing You shows canny use of the same kind of twists and turns, making up for some of its more credulity-stretching moments with a brisk pace and nicely-timed jolts. Mo does a good job of notching up the tension throughout, and the film’s central mystery as to whether or not Ki-bum has returned to his old ways is milked effectively for maximum suspense. Though a touch convoluted, the script skilfully divides its time between Hee-joo, Ki-bum and Dae-young, and with each being interesting and either damaged and/or dangerous, this helps to keep the viewer guessing and the film manages to work in a few surprises along the way to its grisly conclusion. The film also benefits from a hard edge, Mo working in plenty of gruesome scenes of stabbings and torture, giving it the feel of a particularly brutal game of cat and mouse.

A lot of the attention here will be on Shim Eun-kyung thanks to the actress taking on such a markedly different role, although it’s worth noting that she did appear in a number of genre films earlier in her career, including Possessed and Hansel and Gretel, as well as recently lending her voice talents to Yeon Sang-ho’s fantastic Train to Busan prequel, Seoul Station. Shim is certainly on good form here, succeeding in making Hee-joo sympathetic as well as complicated, no mean feat given that her single minded quest for revenge takes her to some very dark places indeed. Kim Sung-oh is also great value, adding a genuinely creepy air and an evil smirk to the villainous Ki-bum, while at the same time giving him a welcome touch of insecurity and incompetence in a way which almost makes the viewer feel sorry for him at times. Though Dae-young is a fairly typical genre figure, Yoon Je-moon ticks the right boxes as the dogged detective, and the three protagonists have a fun and dramatic dynamic that ominously exudes conflict and points towards a savage reckoning.

Korean cinema is well-known for tales of serial killers and dark revenge, and Missing You is a very worthwhile genre entry, marking a fine debut for Mo Hong-jin. With more than enough macabre shocks and outré revelations, as well as impressive performances from Shim Eun-kyung and Kim Sung-oh, it’s a film which should certainly go down well with fans of the form.

Missing You is available from YesAsia.

About the author

James MudgeJames Mudge James Mudge
From Glasgow but based in London, James has been writing for a variety of websites over the last decade, including BeyondHollywood in the US and YesAsia in Hong Kong. As well as running film consultancy The Next Day Agency, James is also the Festival Director of the Chinese Visual Festival in London, an annual event which showcases Chinese language cinema... More »
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