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Piano Man Review

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by AVForums Sep 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM

    Detective Mi-Ran Song (Lee Seung-yeon) and Detective Yang (Park Cheol) are assigned to hunt down a psychopathic murderer calling himself the Piano Man, whose intention is to horribly disfigure his victims before finally killing them in a less than pleasant manner. Detective Song is a young female officer who the murderer seems to have “chosen” to investigate the case by leaving a clue distinct to her past. Yang on the other hand is a drunk, stressed-out officer struggling to bring up his son, Jinwoo (Hong Kyeong-in). Yang receives a call at dinner one-night, but being too drunk to drive gets his son to take him to the scene of the crime. As the story develops, Jinwoo - an aspiring detective - attempts to aid the Police Force from his computer at home, solving clues and using the latest techniques he has read in books. Meanwhile Detective Song is out following her own instincts in a search for the killers whereabouts

    The film starts with a gruesome crime scene at night, blue-lit with rain pouring down. The tone of the movie is instantly set and we find the main characters in the crime lab the next day discussing the evidence. This is where you begin to realise the subtitles may not be quite up to scratch... dodgy grammar, poor spelling and at times complete nonsense sentences begin to really annoy. The same word is spelled three or four different ways in the space of 3 minutes and once or twice words are not actually spaced apart making things difficulttoread! Because of this much of the film's potential is already lost in poor translation (unless the script really was that bad to start with) and you really want to be able to skim over the subtitles and watch the character act out the scene. This way you can pay attention to the actor's facial expressions, body language, the tone of their voice and still piece together where the movie is going. But you are disappointed to find that the acting is average at best, and combined with the slow pace of the movie, quite boring. I wonder if I have completely missed something! Perhaps the translation was carried out as cheaply as the video and audio were recorded and maybe there are several layers of character development that are completely lost in the written English adaptation. I doubt it though.

    So on to the audiovisual aspect. Camera work is stylish and quite bold in places, kudos to the director for trying something new. It does look a little ripped off from the Japanese action genre and unfortunately is used in the wrong places. Sharp, sideways sudden camera movements are not required to simply follow an officer from getting out of his car and walking into the station! But these kinds of methods could have been well used in the one or two high pace scenes. During the frequent Jazz lounge scenes the camera resorts to a Stars-in-your-Eyes combination of fast spinning shots and extreme close-ups, not good. Combine this with the Korean singer's awful interpretation of the English language and you have a scene that is best forgotten. Outside of the Jazz club the soundtrack is really quite good. Chirpy Jazz and Swing numbers contrast distastefully with the blood and gore scenes (although there aren't many), and it works really well. But it's still not consistent with many chapters suffering a plain soundtrack that doesn't add to the film in any way, more like background noise.

    Character development was rare. We learn more about the killer near the very end of the movie where it was utterly pointless, and at times the movie attempted to delve into the psyche of Detective Yang but really just followed him go through the motions of anger, sorrow, and drunk. This is a shame since Detective Song had a great character to explore; she was a lone female officer in a male dominated organisation, she seemed to have a deeper relationship with Detective Yang (and cared a lot for his son too), and the killer was playing mind games with her throughout. Again either a helluva lot was lost in translation or these factors were simply done wrong. All in all this story never had the strength of a real thriller, if it weren't for the odd bit of gruesome pain (of which there wasn't near enough) the script would've been more suited to an episode of Columbo!.