Tell Me Something (1999) Review

"Tell Me Something" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Tell Me Something" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Chang Yoon-hyun
Producer: Koo Bon-han, hang Youn-hyn
Cast: Han Seok-Kyu, Shim Eun-Ha, Chang Hang-sun
Running Time: 116 min.

By Numskull

Tell ME something… why ruin a perfectly good suspense thriller with one of the most repetitive, redundant, unnecessary, and repetitive final shots in motion picture history? Perfectly good story, perfectly good ending, and they fuck it up with this really stupid final shot that says: “Here. Just in case you didn’t get it the first time, here it is again.” I mean, shit.

Maybe they were too busy worrying about whether or not the garbage bag scenes were bloody enough to notice that. Tell Me Something is not for the weak of heart, stomach, or mind; there are plenty of plot twists that will make the prospect of keeping up to speed a very unlikely one for inattentive viewers. Please note, however, that this doesn’t really make it any better than many other movies of the same type. Aside from the spiffy musical accompaniment, including a number of mood-setting piano pieces and an energized version of “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, there’s not a whole lot here to set it apart from this suspense thriller over here or that suspense thriller over there (except maybe the amount of gore, but that’s not important).

Tell Me Something is solid, and functional, but not extraordinary. Those of you who normally take my reviews with a grain of salt might want to make it TWO grains for this one, as there is nothing “wrong” with the film; it just didn’t do a whole lot for me. (Hence, only three paragraphs. Sorry.)

Numskull’s Rating: 6/10


By Reefer

Don’t you just hate it when you are taking out the garbage and you accidentally rip the bag and make an ungodly mess? After watching Tell Me Something, you will understand that egg shells, banana peels, and assorted trash poured onto your floor would be a blessing compared to what could have happened. When Hefty bags get poked here, aside from gallons of blood, body parts come sliding out. Try and sop up that with a roll of Bounty!! Mysteriously, these bags of mismatched parts are popping up on elevators, basketball courts, inside of cars, and on the expressway.

While being investigated for corruption and mourning the recent death of his mother, Lieutenant Cho is suddenly assigned to this intriguing mystery. A mixture of macho stoicism and keen attention to detail, Cho makes an interesting movie cop. His scenes with dialogue seem limited. He’s more introspective than most big screen constables. At times, he almost vanishes into the scenery, but that is not to say he lacks screen presence. It is indeed an odd mixture.

One could label the majority of this film’s performances as cold or plain, but that would be too simple. I believe this to be purposeful. Director Chang Youn-hyun paints a world of subtle gloom where its inhabitants seem to have given up on hope. This bleakness may bother some.

Cho’s investigation eventually leads him to Chae, a lonely museum curator. As it happens, Chae has been romantically involved with each of the victims. Because Chae has seemly blocked out her past mentally, Cho chooses keep her under round-the-clock surveillance. Suspects begin to pop up everywhere as one murder scene leads to another. One of the real treats of this film is the logical way the narrative proceeds. Oh there are twists a’plenty, but there is always a path that leads to them.

Reminiscent of the American film Seven, Tell Me Something is eerily dark and methodically moves at its own pace. High on gore, low on action. TMS replaces gunplay with graphically amputated limbs and car chases with exploding garbage bags. Director Chang Youn-hyun tells his story with creepiness to spare. Like a two-hour episode of the X-Files, this film features plenty of flashlight and umbrella moments. Plus, the use of music and sudden sound FX creates more that a few uneasy pangs of dread.

It seems that the director understands this genre very well. He uses some of the serial killer cliches to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. Then during the last third of the film uses your own preconceptions to beat you senseless, dropping your jaw to the floor. But if you beat him and figure it out beforehand, you’ll still be rattled by the near flawless execution (so to speak) of plot, character, setting, and mood.

Twisty ties anyone?

Reefer’s Rating: 8/10

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