Paradise Murdered is particular kind of murder mystery… I’m having trouble coming up with a good adjective. I need something to take various elements into account: it’s uncanny, post-paced, engaging… it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. So I guess it’s madcap. Or zany. I’ve never seen a film so deftly toggle between being funny and being disturbing.
As a mystery, Paradise is basically an Agatha Christie mystery, just without a detective. There are seventeen people and one of them is a murderer (or isn’t). Red herrings and McGuffins come up from the second scene in the film and some of them are neon, making the dimmer ones’ digestion discrete. It’s all very masterfully put together, because the element of the uncanny, at times, gives it a bit of a Shining feel… only less embarrassing… and better. (There is one neat Shining reference I’m not sure I would have noticed if the fiancée hadn’t made the comparison a few minutes before).
The acting is all first rate, which is a bit of an achievement, since a) everyone’s a suspect and that situation usually lends to some real hamming and b) because there are at least two crazy characters and crazy characters are hard to pull off. Park Hae-il is the lead, I guess, but he’s that great kind of lead who fits in with the rest of the cast. It’s a combination of the direction, the script, and Park’s performance. I knew there was someone famous who I should have recognized but it wasn’t until afterwards I looked it up and realized it was Park. He integrates really well, an important factor in such a large cast.
The director, Kim Han-min, also wrote the film and it’s a surprise. His direction and attention to characters is entirely dispassionate. While his composition is adequate and he directs actors well, he can’t sustain any urgency for more than a few minutes. The times when Paradise actually gets disturbing or scary (though my fiancée wholly disagrees–she didn’t find it scary at all) obviously took a lot of work and Kim really has to pull all the stops (is that expression correct?) to get it to register.
But, like any Christie-esque mystery, the point is to engage while the film is running and Paradise Murdered does so… even introducing that adroit comedic element.
Written and directed by Kim Han-min; director of photography, Kim Yong-heung; edited by Shin Min-gyeong; music by Bang Jun-seok; produced by Choi Du-young; released by MK Pictures.
Starring Park Hae-il (Woo Seong), Park Sol-mi (Gwi-nam), Seong Ji-ru, Choi Ju-bong, Kim In-mun and Park Won-sang.