Our Town (2008)

Our Town (click for larger image)Reviewed by Johnny Butane

Starring Ryou Duck-Hwan, O Man-Suck, Lee Sun-Kyun

Directed by Jung Gil-Young

In a small town in Korea, a series of grisly murders have been baffling police for months. Female victims ranging from 10 years old to 40 have been showing up crucified to whatever will allow their mutilated bodies to be seen by as many people as possible.

How is he getting away with it? How is it that the police don’t have a single clue who this guy is, yet he’s able to murder women and hang them in public? The day after the latest victim is found that’s what being asked by many, but writer Kyeong-Jo is trying another avenue; how and why does this guy do it? Kyeong-Jo’s a violent crime writer, you see, and is about a day from being evicted unless he comes up with something that will sell, so figuring out this guy’s angle could be quite a boon to his latest book.

His landlady locks him out, which doesn’t do much for his mood, but begrudgingly allows him back in under her supervision, to get some copies of the work he’s done so far. In a fit of rage after she won’t stop nagging him, he murders her in one of the most painful and drawn-out asphyxiation scenes I’ve ever seen. Now he’s really fucked up.

Or has he? He realizes pretty quickly that if he stages this the same way as the real killer who’s out there, it will take that much longer for the police to even suspect him; a fact that’s aided quite a bit by his friendship with the lead detective on the case. Cops aren’t stupid, though, and pretty soon puzzle pieces are being put together and the trail leads back to him … until another victim shows up while he’s in police custody. But it’s not over by a long shot, as Kyeong-Jo realizes he’s deeper into this than he expected; it’s no coincidence these killings are going on in his town, and before long the serial killer is targeting him, as well. Demons and misdeeds from the past will come back to haunt everyone until the final, rain filled, overly long dramatic moment.

Our Town has a lot of heart. You could tell that director Gil-Young wanted to attempt something somewhat different from the cop/serial killer thrillers his country is adept at churning out. The story is layered and can be more than little confusing, however, which does take away some of the film’s enjoyment. Don’t worry: one of the leads will explain it all in the final reel, so you if you’re still a little lost it’s all right.

The main issue I had with Our Town is that I never really manage to feel much for these characters, be it the writer, the cop or the killer, whose identity is revealed pretty early on to keep things interesting. To me it seemed like you only were able to learn who these people were through this one situation they happened to be in, as is the case with most films, but who they were isn’t anything very deep. If that’s what Gil-Young was going for, and considering the bleak overtones of the film I wouldn’t be surprised, then he definitely succeeded. To me, though, it fell flat because of that.

Still, going in with zero expectations I have to say I enjoyed myself quite a bit. There are some especially vicious kill scenes staged throughout, most notably a character who was woefully underused and seemed to only show up to pad the body count and add another good kill. A good trimming would also have helped out Our Town, but anyone who’s familiar with Korean films knows that’s pretty much a standard-issue critique of their entire film culture, so we’ll forgive it.

At the end of the day, Our Town is a smart movie with enough going on throughout that you won’t get bored, just make sure you’re paying attention it’s easy to get lost pretty quickly.

3 out of 5

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Johnny Butane