December 19, 2022 – This is one of those Korean films where I really feel like I'm lost in translation, starting with the title, which actually makes sense in English, but the Korean title: Heojil gyeolsim literally means, “Resolution to Break Up,” which, for me, doesn't carry the same impactful meaning.
This movie, essentially, has a well-worn plot about a cop who gets romantically involved with a murder suspect, only to find out he has been played, but it is more complicated than that. The truth is elusive, as it often seems to be in movies directed by Park Chan-wook (who also co-wrote the script). I couldn't quite get the point of this movie, and I had similar troubles with a couple of other Park Chan-wook movies, “Snowpiercer” and “Old Boy.”
First of all, I had trouble telling some of the actors, who look similar to each other, apart, so I had to rely on context. Secondly, I'm not sure I was getting the whole Korean dialog, by depending totally on English subtitles. I did manage to muddle through, as best I could, so bear with me.
Police detective Jang Hae-jun (played by Park Hae-il of “The Host”) works in Busan, and only sees his wife, Jeong-ahn (played by Lee Jung-hyun), a nuclear power plant worker residing in Ipo, once a week. There is a strain on the marriage, caused, in part, by distance.
Jang, and his partner Soo-Wan (Go Kyung-Pyo) take on the case of a mountain climber who fell to his death. There are indications that his fall may not have been an accident. In any murder case of a married person, you always consider the spouse as a possible suspect, and in this case, the wife looks pretty suspicious.
The beautiful, sexy, Chinese wife, Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei of “Lust, Caution”) looks good for the murder. She has bruises that suggest she had been beaten by her husband, providing a strong motive for murder. Song is a formidable woman, beautiful and smart. She has a rock-solid alibi, backed up by phone location data indicating she was at work when her husband died. There is also evidence that Song's husband's death may have been a suicide.
Jang and Soo-Wan keep working the case, but Jang is conflicted because he is attracted to Song and she comes on to him as well. Eventually, Jang's superiors order him to rule the death a suicide and move on. But Jang eventually finds out that Song has deceived him. Jang is deeply compromised, and devastated.
Jang, shaken by these events, transfers to Ipo to be closer to his wife, and tries to put the whole affair behind him. Suddenly Song, and her new husband, Im Ho-Shin (Park Yong-woo) show up in Ipo at a market. There, they meet Jang, and his wife, Jeong-ahn. Jang's wife immediately senses a connection between her husband and Song. Trouble is brewing in Ipo.
When Im Ho-Shin, Song's husband, is murdered, Jang catches the case, and he knows who did it, but again, can't prove it. The crazy relationship between Jang and Song gets even crazier. Jang loves Song despite everything, and she is in love with him, because of everything. The ending of this crazy star-crossed love story is even crazier.
This relationship reminds me of on in the classic film. “The Maltese Falcon.” In that movie, Humphrey Bogart says to Mary Astor, “I won't play the sap for you! ... I won't because all of me wants to, regardless of consequences, and because you counted on that with me the same as you counted on that with all the others.”
In “Decision to Leave,” Jang seems to be willing to play the sap, but at the same time, he is deeply conflicted by his policeman's code, and his pride in his ability to do his job. This relationship is a real conundrum.
This is a good movie and all, but it is no “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) despite the comparison I just made. “The Maltese Falcon” is a classic, this is not. This movie rates a B.
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