Dir: Won Shin-Yeon. South Korea. 2007. 124mins.
Female-centric Korean thriller Seven Days presents an intriguing if slightly overlong mixture of the crime and procedural genres with a very personally motivated ticking-clock element thrown in for good measure. While trading in a bit of grisly imagery, the film for the most part eschews the gore of recent like-minded films about a killer's manipulations, and doesn't embrace the supernatural elements of contemporary Korean thrillers like Arang, Silk and Apartment 1303 either. Instead, Seven Days sticks to grim, human-fueled mayhem and panicked investigative manoeuverings, bogging down a bit in the second act before saving itself with a big, enormously satisfying hook in its final reel.
Set for a mid-November premiere in South Korea, the film should find welcome reception there and in other Asian territories, courtesy of its hyper-charged design, slick commercial moves and end twist. Key to the film's much more modest chances overseas - either theatrically with urban crime pic fans of films like OldBoy or more likely on
Single mother Jiyeon Lee (Kim) is a brilliant and successful lawyer who has never lost a case. After her latest victory, freeing a low-level mob henchman from fraud and racketeering charges, her eight-year-old daughter is kidnapped. In lieu of ransom, the kidnapper phones Jiyeon and instructs her that he wants her to represent, and free from prison, drug peddler and habitual sexual offender Chul-jin 'CJ' Jeong (Choi) who is about to stand trial for rape and murder which will see him executed if found guilty.
With her daughter threatened harm if she goes to the police, Jiyeon throws herself into the case. For assistance she relies only on old friend Sung-yeol Kim (Park, of My Friend & His Wife), an maverick cop under internal investigation for his own appetite for excesses, but doesn't tell him the entire truth. Consulting with the coroner and poring over a crime scene full of contradictions, Jiyeon at first suspects a willfully botched investigation or police cover-up, but then focuses in on Gang Inwon (Yang), a club-scene drug addict who seems to have suffered a psychotic split, but nonetheless may have an important connection to the deceased. Vacillating back and forth on the notion of CJ's guilt, Jiyeon sees her despondency paralleled by Sooki Han (Misook Kim), the mother of the victim, while desperately working to please her daughter's kidnapper.
The film packs a breathless amount of investigative findings into its two-hour running time. There seem a few too many red herrings and/or loose, extraneous threads - including a bitter prosecutor aiming for professional payback against Jiyeon, a party promoter involved in a car accident on the night of the murder, and the reemergence of a gangster acquitted by Jiyeon - but Seven Days eventually winds its way to a conclusion where more than one party is complicit, so the vast sprawl of its story is somewhat mitigated.
The chief problem is that the movie's meticulously chaotic shooting and editing style works against this expansive tapestry for a decent portion of its middle, with willful freneticism obscuring key narrative details. These modes of storytelling have the damning paradoxical effect of making Seven Days drag, especially in sequences with long dialogue exchanges. A more restrained focus on the characters themselves would have increased the movie's tension and intrigue.
Kim, who made quite an impression in 2002's Shiri and has played markedly tougher roles in foreign films, gives Seven Days a nice, anchoring presence. Focused on one end result - getting her daughter back at any cost - she believably conveys dogged tenacity and vulnerability still also exuding sympathy.
Tech credits, meanwhile, are polished and efficient all around. Director Won and cinematographer Young-Hwan Choi give Seven Days a very modern, shimmering, kinetic feeling - albeit too frequently also a somewhat juvenile restless one. They seemingly draw inspiration from both small screen US serials like
Composer Jun-Sung Kim's musical selections, meanwhile, encompass a wide variety of moods and tones, from Jiyeon's swooning despair to the mounting, percussive-driven suspense and intrigue of the movie's investigatory passages.
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based on an original story by Jae-Gu Yoon