James Jay Edwards reviews Killed My Wife, a movie adapted from a webcomic, written and directed by Kim Ha-ra. (Red Hound Films)
There are many movies around that are based on comic books, but how many are there that are based on webcomics? Not as many, but the South Korean offering Killed My Wife is one of them.
Killed My Wife is about a man named Jeong-ho Choi (Si-eon Lee) who wakes up one morning to find that his wife was murdered the night before. Because of his bloody clothes and his possession of what appears to be the murder weapon, he is immediately deemed the chief suspect. The problem is that he had been drinking all night and can’t remember anything at all. Jeong-ho tries desperately to fill in his memories of the evening, but a persistent policeman named Lt. Daeyeon Choi (Nae-sang Ahn) wants to fill them in first.
(Killed My Wife, theatrical release poster, Red Hound Films)
As mentioned, writer/director Kim Ha-ra adapted Killed My Wife from the webcomic “Anaereul Jukeossda” by Hee Na-ri. And frankly, the aesthetic is very much like a comic, with every shot meticulously put together to appear like a panel from a comic, almost as if the original were used as a storyboard. It’s not quite as sensational as Sin City or Creepshow, but the look is way more surreal than your average realism-based police procedural.
From a mystery standpoint, Kill My Wife is solid. The narrative unravels through flashbacks as Jeong-ho regains bits of his memory, so the audience learns what happened at the same time as the main character. The evil deed is shown in the first scene, so the movie isn’t so much a whodunnit as it is a howdunnit, but there are plenty of surprises along the way, and after a while, the audience starts doubting their own eyes and ears. Could the hero really have done all of this?
(Killed My Wife, Red Hound Films)
Jeong-ho navigates his way through a South Korean underworld of infidelity, prostitution, and gambling, with each of his experiences providing a little piece to the puzzle. Despite his apparent guilt, Jeong-ho is a sympathetic character, sort of like a poor man’s Leonard from Memento. The setup is masterful, and much of the journey is thrilling. But not all of it.
For as creative as the mystery of Kill My Wife is, the tone of the movie is confusing. Jeong-ho is having the worst day of his life, but many of the other characters, mainly Lt. Choi and the rest of the police, act as if they’re in a slapstick comedy. It’s not just having fun hunting down their man, either. Their behavior borders on Keystone Cops activity at times, which stands in stark contrast to Jeong-ho’s desperate run for his life and sanity.
(Killed My Wife, Red Hound Films)
But the biggest issue with Kill My Wife comes with its ending. Basically, it’s a cop-out. Sure, the mystery gets solved, but the conclusion feels like the filmmakers had no idea how to end things, so they just made something up on the spot after a three-drink lunch. It all wraps up just a little too neat and tidily. Insult is then added to injury with a pointless epilogue.
While Kill My Wife shows moments of real greatness, those moments are overshadowed by the weaker aspects of the film. The arc of the story is creative enough, but the inconsistent execution and wasted finale are the bad tastes left in the viewer’s mouth. It’s a thrilling ride, as long as you don’t mind being let down at the end.