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A mentally disabled young man (Won Bin) is arrested for the killing of a schoolgirl; his loyal mom (Kim Hye-ja) decides to do a little private investigation of her own. If you’ve seen Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003), then you know that the South Korean director can whip up a layered police procedural quicker than you can say CSI: Seoul. Which only makes this thriller suffer in comparison, even if you accept that the whodunit elements are supposed to take a backseat. Bong’s movie is really an ode to maternal love run amok, and the hints that the bond between our dogged amateur detective and her boy may not be entirely innocent do add a nice (if nauseating) wrinkle. But the filmmaker seems slightly off his game here, and the sly social commentary embedded in Bong’s previous genre work for once feels forced (when it pops up at all). Even Kim’s keen performance can’t make the film come off as more than a Rube Goldberg contraption, impeccably designed to jerk here and there before slowly winding down. Friday, Oct 9 at 6pm; Saturday, Oct 10 noon.—David Fear

New York Film Festival 2009

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