- Asian Cinema


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Link to YesAsia

Dunoiyuhui peurojekteu, peojeul (2006). Directed by Kim Tae-kyung. Cast: Joo Jin-mo, Moon Sung-keun, Hong Seok-cheon, Park Jun-seok, Kim Hyun-seong.

Five career criminals who have never met before receive an offer they can't refuse. They're invited to participate in a perfectly planned robbery, there's only one catch: They don't know who planned it.

After the robbery has been completed successfully, four of the men meet up with the fifth at a large empty storage facility. However, when they arrive, they only find his charred body, causing the four men to point their guns at each other, as they try to figure out who set them up. While they argue about who hired them and why, and debate a course of action, flashbacks reveal how these men got to this point in their life, and how the whole operation was set in motion.

Even the casual filmfan will have noticed a certain familiarity in the story at this point. To put it simply: "Puzzle" combines the plot of "Reservoir Dogs" and "Usual Suspects", and ends up with a tight little thriller clocking in at a mere 92 minutes. The film would have been brilliant, though, had it only stuck to imitating the spirit of these two films, instead of actually lifting whole scenes from them. The entire final shootout of "Reservoir Dogs" and the "The robbers open the envelopes"-scene from "Usual Suspects" make it to "Puzzle" fairly intact, which makes it really hard to love this otherwise crafty film. But this is not the only problem.

In "Usual Suspects" we had a clear idea of who was going to get the robbers if they didn't corporate. The character of Keyzer Soze was vividly brought to life through flashbacks and campfire stories shared by the robbers. "Puzzle" has no such obvious bad guy. We never learn anything about the shadowy figure who put the robbery together, we don't see his face or learn his name until the very end, so there's no sense of danger.

In the end "Puzzle" simply runs out of steam, crippled by the need to hide the main antagonist, the fact that there's no clear deadline and the feeling that the filmmakers are standing on the shoulders of geniuses to reach the sky.

David Bjerre
April 10, 2007