Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fatal Intuition (2015)

aka It’s Him

Original title: 그 놈이다

Jang-woo (Joo Won) and his teenage sister Eun-ji (Ryoo Hye-yeong) live together in a run-down coastal town, where Jang-woo runs the laundry business that once belonged to their parents, who died when Eun-ji was still very young. Consequently, Jang-woo has spent the years after their death as his sister’s replacement parent, clearly loving the kid dearly but rather tending to a very overprotective style of parenting.

Yet still, Jang-woo can’t protect Eun-ji from being murdered. Indeed he has to bear some of the actual responsibility for her death by providing the killer with a choice opportunity for the deed when Jang-woo locks his sister up in their home. The bereaved brother can’t let the death of his sister just stand, and while I usually look rather askance on the whole thing where people try to solve a crime themselves, the local police would probably not be able to catch a killer even if he ran into their office shouting “I’m the killer!” while wearing a placard reading “KILLER! ARREST ME!” around his neck. Jang-woo soon focuses his investigation on the local pharmacist Min (Yoo Hae-jin), one of the few outwardly nice people in a town full of assholes. Jang-woo is assisted by another town pariah, Si-eun (Lee Yoo-Young), who is mistreated by basically everyone she meets during the course of the film because she sees spirits and even has a some clairvoyant abilities. Alas, the only thing she ever sees is peoples’ death. In fact, Si-eun predicted Eun-jin’s death, but, like it always goes for her, couldn’t do anything to change the girl’s fate.

Yoon Joon-hyeong’s thriller with light supernatural elements is a very typical example of the South Korean type of the form, as expected featuring some slick yet not stupid direction, fine performances, and writing that is always at least decent.

Fatal Intuition is not quite as good a film as other examples of the genre from the country: its emotional content tends to drift towards the somewhat too obviously manipulative from time to time, and its use of clichés isn’t quite as clever as it could be, perhaps choosing things useful for narrative mechanics over things true to character or reality a few times too often. Surely, there’s no real need to make the police quite this incompetent and ignorant, for example. This love of the well-worn cliché never gets so bad as to ruin the film, but it tends to stand in the way of it being more than just a slick entertainment (even though there is of course little wrong with a film just being that), and certainly stands in the way of the film saying as much about grief, guilt and obsession - the three things all three main characters are all about - as it could.

Apart from the basic joy of a good thriller plot that is certainly there and accounted for, and the film’s technical achievements, there are other things to like here too: how the killer’s back story turns out to be a choice bit of Korean gothic that also works to turn the guy into a little more than just the monster you’d expect, and which also fits into Si-eun’s ghost visions quite nicely; how the film’s colour scheme turns gialloesque for the finale; or that the most stupid cop among extremely stupid cops gets killed.

That’s not quite enough to turn it into a film you should run out to see, but Fatal Intuition is still very much worth one’s while, the kind of film whose flaws stand out so clearly because the rest of it seems made with such a sure hand.

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