Who would have suspected that the perfect “whodunit” title would turn up on a Korean thriller?
“Killed My Wife (Anaereul Jukyessda)” is a guilty, sinking suspicion, a question and in the end an answer to a mystery, cryptically served-up in a solid genre thriller that keeps you guessing, thanks at least in part to a bit of cheating on the part of the filmmaker.
It opens with a death in a darkened apartment. Drops of blood hit the floor, followed by the bleeding woman it was coming from.
The cops get word, and in the morning they check in with the victim’s husband. Jeong-ho (Lee Si-eon) is living in another apartment, sleeping one off. He was so drunk last night he has no idea what he did or where. He’s pretty sure he didn’t kill his wife, though.
The veteran detective (Ahn Nae-sang) offers up “Usually the victim knows” the person who killed her, which gets Jeong-ho’s back up.
Then we see his shirt. It’s bloody. The cop sees it. Jeong-ho is the last to notice. He protests his innocence, and damned if a knife doesn’t fall out of his jacket. Before we know it, the cop has the cuffs out but Jeong-ho is quicker with the frying pan.
And he’s off, on a mad dash to sober-up, reconstruct the previous night and construct an iron clad alibi.
We can’t help but notice he doesn’t take even a moment to mourn. We can’t miss that the friend he was with, bar-hopping, knows an awful lot of his business — a job loss that Jeong-ho kept from his wife, money problems, a “loan shark.”
The cop, it turns out, was recently demoted. He’s too embarrassed to admit he got jumped “by a bum,” and when he comes across money at the crime scene, he grabs it.
What’s HIS story? Ten or so minutes in, and we’re piling up suspects. Poor Jeong-ho doesn’t know whether to feel guilty, how guilty to feel or where to go next as he reconstructs a night that ended with his wife dead on her apartment floor.
Gangs, teen punks, a friendly barmaid, a karaoke bar, CCTV footage and other wrinkles will work their way into our puzzle-solving as we, Jeong-ho and the cops try to reason out which of the myriad suspects had motive, access and no alibi on the night in question.
Lee Si-eon does a lovely job of suggesting guilt-ridden befuddlement, a man with a black-out drunk drinking problem that his wife was exhausted from coping with, and a man with debts which just might have gotten his wife killed.
Ahn Nae-sang ensures that Det. Choi is another mystery. Why was he demoted? How does he get away with slapping around younger cops, and is he really motivated to catch Jeong-ho, and if so, why?
Writer-director Kim Ha-ra doesn’t always play fair with the clues, but masterfully works in red herrings that make us suspect almost everybody introduced as a potential killer.
In addition to the “cheating” with the clues, “Killed My Wife” moves along in fits and starts, losing its urgency, making one wonder how long a suspect could walk the streets after Korean cops finger him and unleash the country’s vast CCTV network on hunting him down.
It’s still a solid and most engrossing entry in the whodunit genre, one Hollywood has been content to tread water in for years and years.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, alcohol abuse
Cast: Lee Si-eon, Ahn Nae-sang, Seo Ji-young
Credits: Written and directed by Kim Ha-ra. A Blue Fox release.
Running time: 1:38