Director Park Chan-wook’s new film Decision to Leave begins with a bang — actually. Detectives Hae-joon and Soo-wan fill a physique define with bullet holes at a firing vary, speaking store. It’s a tricky time on the Busan police division — not sufficient homicide circumstances as of late, the 2 detectives bemoan. When a climber is discovered lifeless on the base of a mountain with a cracked watch that confirms his time of loss of life, Hae-joon’s curiosity is piqued. But that is no shut-and-closed case, and, for the subsequent two-and-a-half hours, Chan-wook sends his dogged detective off to chase the plot to its absurd, astounding finish.
Audiences won’t count on this Hitchcock-infused detective story to come from Chan-wook, the South Korean director whose early revenge flicks like Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance had many critics herding him into the nebulous “excessive Asian cinema” classification. Decision to Leave might dial down the gore and octopus mukbang, but it surely’s as confidently sprawling as Chan-wook’s bloodiest work. You’ll be hard-pressed to discover anybody else who can throw this degree of visible verve right into a boots-on-the-ground police story, combine it with a big-hearted romance, and nonetheless have it float.
In his investigation into the climber’s loss of life, Hae-joon, performed by a wonderfully glum Park Hae-il, questions the climber’s spouse, Seo-rae (Tang Wei). He’s unsettled by how unaffected she is, however too bewitched to place her beneath suspicion. Wei is pitch-perfect because the stolid Seo-rae, drawing us into her mysteries with a faint wink beneath every line. Like all nice femme fatales, she will ensnare the married Hae-joon with one look, seduction that he’s not getting from his spouse, with whom he carries out a “weekend marriage” throughout city. Later within the film, Hae-joon will inform Seo-rae that from the get-go, “I knew we had been of the identical breed.”
For Chan-wook, manipulation and love are two sides of the identical coin. Decision to Leave dangers dropping itself in its twists and turns because the detective and his suspect develop extra intertwined, however Chan-wook’s visuals stay lucid, even when the plot will get murky. The modifying is zippy and shocking: throughout interrogation scenes, editor Sang-beom Kim cuts between Hae-joon and Seo-rae’s faces on totally different digicam screens and thru reflections within the glass.
Chan-wook has been a proponent of digital cinematography lately — in February he made Life is But a Dream, a brief movie shot totally on an iPhone 13, and his 2011 launch Night Fishing was shot on an iPhone 4. But Decision to Leave is his most tech-obsessed film. Characters make the most of Siri to comedic impact, Seo-rae interprets Chinese with her telephone when her Korean fails her, and a suspicious iPhone pedometer performs a key function within the homicide case.
The film continues headlong by way of a labyrinth of puzzling and inexplicable aspect plots, akin to a soft-shell turtle housebreaking that leaves our detective with a bitten finger. All the whereas, Hae-joon stays infatuated with Seo-rae. Chan-wook has stated that he isn’t a giant movie noir fan, but it surely’s exhausting not to learn the hard-boiled influences in Hae-joon’s insomnia-fueled nights spent surveilling Seo-rae. “It’s not that I can’t sleep due to stakeouts, I do stakeouts as a result of I can’t sleep,” he tells his nervy younger associate Soo-wan (Go Kyung-Pyo).
When Hae-joon lastly reaches Seo-rae, they don’t have intercourse; as an alternative, she lulls him to sleep as a result of she is aware of he wants relaxation. Chan-wook is not any prude (see: The Handmaiden), however he leaves the eroticism of Decision to Leave to benign moments— shared lip balm on a wet day and temporary glances throughout a sushi meal eaten in silence.
Around the center of the film, the plot doubles again on Hae-joon’s obsessions in a approach which may come of as redundant. But Decision to Leave is all about patterns, from Hae-joon and Seo-rae’s dueling smartwatch notes to Chan-wook’s repeat clues within the type of close-ups. By the top of the film, the police procedural fades away right into a breathless love story, which was there from the beginning, however not in the way in which that audiences would possibly count on.
Like different nice noir characters, Hae-joon teeters on the knife’s fringe of obsession and love. Decision to Leave asks the query: Is the fun of affection within the assembly or the leaving? Leave it to Chan-wook to reply that query with one other — does it matter in the long run? Chan-wook might need left the blood and bums behind for this film, however he can nonetheless pull out the knives when he wants to.
Decision to Leave. Showtimes fluctuate. Fri., Oct. 28 – Thu., Nov. 10. Harris Theater. 809 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $11. trustarts.org