11 February 2009 | refresh_daemon
An engrossing core mystery with unnecessary embellishments
The Big Scene is another film by genre-twisting writer-director Jang Jin. This one is a procedural crime film where we follow a bunch of homicide detectives as they attempt to find out the whos' and whats' of the apparent murder of a young woman. Of course, with Jang on the pen, we have some curves thrown in. First of all, a television show has sponsored the investigation leading to the constant presence of cameras everywhere and television reporters all over the place.
I found the whole "on TV" elements ineffectual and unnecessary as the core mystery was plenty interesting enough to hold its own and the televised elements didn't seem wound well enough into the story that they really made any impact. Fortunately, the core story was interesting enough for the most part, although the end "twist" is rather anti-climactic, despite its Usual Suspects approach. There are lots of interesting characters thrown into the mix and nothing really looks like what it seems. Although it might seem contrived upon thought, I was engrossed enough that I was able to ignore those thoughts to enjoy the twists and turns.
Also seemingly grafted on is a supernatural motif. It also doesn't seem that necessary for the story and it hooks in with the anti-climactic ending, which doesn't help it. If the whole element were better infused into the story that might have been better. Jang's trademark humor comes into play several times, usually to good effect and reduces its presence more and more towards the end of the film as the drama takes heavier weight. Fortunately, he was also to curb his reality-breaking tendencies and keep his more fantastical whimsies to imagined scenes.
As usual, Jang directs with lots of style and control and yet, like most of his works, there also seems to be a thin layer of artifice about it all. I can't entirely pinpoint what it is, but sometimes it seems that I'm peeking behind the wizard's curtain. But really, the man's got a way with framing, camera movements and general visual direction. One thing I did have to complain about the production though was that the music was a little overbearing at times.
The actors play their roles well, but the mix of characterizations, whether actor or writer/director's influence sometimes seems a little off. I did appreciate how effective the cast is at presenting Jang's dry/ridiculous sense of humor though. Production values are impressive as with most Corean films.
Ultimately, I have to say that this is a film that just has too much going on it in. At its core is a engrossing mystery/crime procedural, but the wrapping around it both with the supernatural element and the television broadcast of the investigation just doesn't seem necessary or effectual. Still, the core is strong enough to keep the whole thing interesting to the end. Nothing that's a must see, but it still proves that Jang is a talented writer-director, just one that frequently adds more embellishments than necessary. Flawed, but interesting. 7/10.