Film Review: Heart Blackened

A sensational Korean trial makes for a fairly riveting cinematic ride, with its very own touches of that infamous gangnam style.
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This rousing courtroom drama from writer-director Jung Ji-woo is a remake of Silent Witness, and features veteran Korean actor Choi Min-sik as Im Tae-san, a corporate magnate whose much younger fiancée, singing pop sensation Yuna (Lee Ha-nui), is killed in a mysterious auto crash. Adding more scandal to a story that is tabloid-ready, the murder suspect is Im’s own daughter Mira (Lee Soo-kyung), who’d made no bones about her hatred of her future stepmother. Im puts his faith in the female defense lawyer, Hee-jeong (Park Shin-hye), he has hired to clear his daughter’s name. Meanwhile, Yuna’s obsessed stalker of a fan (Ryu Jun-yeol) comes up with some surprising answers in the case himself.

Jung has given his film a gleaming, ultra-modern production, which captures all the glitz and skin-deep glamour of South Korea today, all K-pop, gangnam style and pretty—often surgically Westernized—faces. He’s attentive to the drama of these intertwined—sometimes inappropriately so—colorful personalities, all of whom we see with their back hair down, for better or worse, and the denouement at the trial is filled with more satisfying twists than a box of pretzels.

Korean women are nothing if not formidable, and this film positively radiates with so much beautifully vibrant estrogen in the lithe forms of Misses Lee and Park, who seize their nervous, urban roles here and merrily act the living daylights out of them. That solid journeyman of an actor, Choi, gives an impressive performance, with just the right amount of gravitas riddled with deep inner turmoil. Rising star Ryu provides considerable goofy comic relief from what is essentially quite a dark, grim tale.

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