Part of MKC's coverage of the 18th Busan International Film Festival.
By John A. Riley
Genome Hazard, from director Kim Sung-Su, is a co-production between South Korea and Japan. Although the reality-bending opening of the film suggests we are in David Lynch or Christopher Nolan territory, Kim’s treatment of the material (a novel by Japanese author Shiro Tsukasaki) is far broader. This would be fine, but he seems not to know what to do with his script; the important plot points are never presented in a way that gives them the gravitas they need to become fully intelligible, and flashbacks and ‘reconstructions’ of hypothetical situations only serve to confuse matters.
There’s a clock that periodically appears on screen, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds, suggesting one of those tense thrillers about an imminent terrorist attack, but the film’s twists and turns don’t pack enough punch to warrant this grandiose technique. When we aren’t baffled by the plot, we’re exasperated with lengthy sections in which Nishijima rants and raves about his situation, alienating us from his plight through overkill, rather than immersing us in it. By the time it becomes clear that what we are watching is closer to a medical thriller like Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects than Total Recall (1990) the film has lost its momentum.
The film is slickly edited and well shot, and Kim Hyo-jin’s proves herself to be a fine actress, especially as she had to rapidly learn Japanese specially for the part. Genome Hazard’s ambition is to be applauded, and it may find favour with fans of slick, fast-paced conspiracy films, but ultimately it misses the chance to engage with the deeper issues (the unreliability of our memories, science and big business gone awry) raised by its themes and doesn’t create enough suspense to be a successful thriller.
Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update, Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).