Boy, how do you say "train wreck" in Korean?
Shaun | Minneapolis, MN USA | 05/13/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"What began with the makings of a good detective thriller, turned sour on a dime within the first half-hour of the movie. Piano Man begins with detectives ducking in & out of the inky folds of a rain-soaked night. They gather, under a canopy of umbrellas, beside a makeshift grave in a vacant gravel pit to study a horribly disfigured corpse. The detectives argue about who will take the lead in the case and whether or not they should wait for the forensics team, shouting at one another for their general incompetence or for ignoring the benefits a parallel investigation with the other departments will have for the case in hand. (Chaos during an investigation being a reoccurring theme in Korean Detective Thrillers.). When the body arrives at the morgue, the detectives discover that the killer left very little in the way of clues by scalding the face, yanking any dental work, skinning the fingertips and last but not least, stitching the victim's eyelids to it's forehead so they could watch! The investigation seemingly abandons any effort to I.D. the body and turns to a small, elegant, toy player-piano shoved into the chest cavity, where the heart had been ripped out. The killer initiates contact with one Detective Mi-ran (Seung-yeon Lee; eight years before starring in 3-Iron) to, for whatever reason, give her clues to help catch him. She receives that victim's heart wrapped as a gift, with a short note simply signed "PM". Yep, you guessed it; Piano Man. The lead on the case, Detective Yang, joins forces with Mi-ran on the case. But he has to battle his wanna-be detective son Jin-woo's interest, nay fascination with the case, his own alcoholism and a younger crop of detectives that balk at Yang's "old world" techniques.
The best way to describe Piano Man is as a crashing bore. The momentum and intrigue those first few scenes built came crumbling down due to mind-numbingly long scenes of little importance. For example, a 25 minute scene concerning the killer's method of procuring black-market license plates. Whatever momentum it managed to recoup, dissolved away again by similar inane, superfluous story-lines. The most egregious error of the movie is the fact that we're given Piano Man's (Min-su Choi) identity within that first half-hour. We then sit through two long, painful lounge acts from a character that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, and to top it off, she's accompanied by the killer on piano, but, as I've already pointed out, by now we know he's the killer. I also can't not mention Piano Man's sudden, inexplicable obsession with Billie Holiday, or obvious plot/set similarities with the story of The Phantom Of The Opera. But in the end, the less we knew about his motivations, the better it would have been. Sadly, his all to hackneyed motivations come into play later on in the film, which is yet another lesson in tedium. But even then, as he continues to keep Detective Mi-ran informed of his "work", those motivations are completely abandoned for wildly inconsistent or at the very least, unconvincing ones. Called a "mildly entertaining time-waster" in another review, Piano Man I'll agree, is just that.
Besides the very opening scenes, there's quite honestly very little to be positive about here. Yu's message concerning police ineffectiveness is a competent, well worn one. He also takes a Freudian look at parent-child relationships early on in the film and comes back to it later, which does add a touch of credibility to the movie as a whole. I'd recommend skipping Piano Man altogether and tracking down infinitely better Korean crime-thrillers such as Tell Me Something, and Memories Of Murder.
Avoid It Like The Plague!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 09/26/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is my second and last time viewing this film. My main purpose was in order to write a review of the film, and hopefully spare others from seeking this film out. And no, upon second viewing it did not get any better with time. Since I have it in my collection [bought it years ago] I have decided to warn others from making the mistake of purchasing this film. The reviewer below, [Shaun] gives more than enough reasons to avoid this terrible film, so I will be brief. The film for me is typical of some Korean serial killer films: No suspense, and a lot of drawn out drama and unnecessary interaction with events that have nothing to do with the film. Although there is not too much gore, it does have its share. The films narrative begins with a female detective Mi-Ran (Seung-yeon Lee) receiving a parcel in the mail at the police station. Inside the package is the heart of a victim, in which the letter describes where the body can be found.
This is where the films narrative takes off. In the darkness and rain, a group of detectives are huddled around sifting through the mud, as the partial skeleton of the victim is exhumed. [Notice it is always at night and raining?] In the letter, the killer also warns the detective that he has sought her out specifically. The killer is known by his initials PM, or, Piano Man, which is given to him by detective Mi-Ran Song. Piano Man (Choi Min-Soo) [star of "Libera Me and Sword In The Moon, among others] is taunting the detective with a warning that his next victim will be within a week. This is one of those 'catch me if you can,' type of films. Or maybe, 'I wanna be caught.' Who knows? Who cares? The film falls apart pretty quickly. Also, he is given his nickname as he places miniature pianos inside his victims chests.
I could find no redeeming quality in the film. The interaction between the two primary detectives Mi-Ran (Seung-yeon Lee) and Yang (Cheol Park) was not that great. Mediocre at best. Plus, throw in the son of detective Yang, and you get an even more convoluted and silly plot. [The son is trying to uncover the killer on his computer--and he has all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the case] Moreover, when the body arrives at the morgue for further inspection, it has been given that usual, and typical serial killer forte of no identity. With the face gone, due to a possible blow torch, no dental work, and fingertips scraped away, these detectives have their work cut out for them [no pun intended]. The film never succeeds due to the fact the film is not cohesive, has terrible scriptwriting, and even worse acting. This was a terrible film, and if you really must see the film, then rent it first. However, I don't even recommend renting the it--that's how bad it is. On the plus side though, as the reviewer Shaun mentions; I would recommend the film, "Memories of Murder," now that is a great Korean film dealing with a serial killer. Moreover, it is based on a true story too! This film is not recommended."