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Kino on Video presents
Tell Me Something (1999)

"We think the killer knows everything about you."
- Lieutenant Cho (Han Suk-gyu)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 13, 2002

Stars: Han Suk-gyu, Shim Eun-ha
Other Stars: Chang Hang-sun, Yum Jung-ah
Director: Chang Youn-Hyun

MPAA Rating: R for (strong bloody violence and gruesome images; some language and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:57m:38s
Release Date: May 14, 2002
UPC: 738329023720
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+C+A- C

DVD Review

Credit David Fincher's brilliant Se7en for no doubt having been at least a partial inspiration for this gruesome 1999 South Korean serial killer thriller from director Chang Youn-hyun. This was only Youn-hyun's second film—and to date his last major release to find its way to the States—and it is generously filled with a treasure trove of creepy and stylish images, set in a perpetually dank and rainy Seoul. It's hard not to make the inevitable comparisons to Fincher's film; both feature dour detectives on the trail of sadistic killers who seem to cherish the notion of leaving tough-to-decipher clues at the various grisly crime scenes, to say nothing of the ever-present and excessive rain.

In Tell Me Something, there is plenty of Fincher-worthy eeriness; dismembered corpses are being found in and around Seoul, stashed in heavy-duty trash bags. A disturbing fact is that the limbs and heads don't all belong to the same body, and it soon becomes clear that each subsequent bag of viscera is in essence another stack of human puzzle pieces. Cho, frazzled police lieutenant (Korean mega-star Han Suk-gyu) and chubby sidekick Detective Oh (Chang Hang-sun) are assigned to head up a covert task force to find the killer. For Cho, the assignment is a chance at redemption, as his career is in peril after it was discovered by his superiors that he had accepted money from a powerful crime lord to help pay for his dying mother's funeral. The investigation trail soon leads Cho and Oh to a mysterious woman named Suyeon (Shim Eun-ha), who just happens to have had romantic relationships with all of the murder victims.

There are any number of severed limbs and bodiless heads throughout Tell Me Something, and squeamish types might not appreciate some of the more graphic scenes, as in the opening sequence where the killer performs a surgical "six-part" amputation; some of the gore borders on the excessive though, as during the crowded elevator scene where a young boy accidently bursts open a bag that seems to gush out a literal river of blood and appendages. Those must be some friggin' strong bags to hold a few gallons of blood, a severed head and a few limbs; I empty coffee grounds in my garbage and the thing leaves a trail of leaky brown drips across my floor when I take it outside.

This isn't a perfect film, and it's not without its share of head-scratching moments—take that confusing last act, for example—with much of the coherent substance having been replaced by pure visceral style. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and Tell Me Something has more than a few scenes where the visual skill of Youn-hyun far outweighs the logical flow of the narrative. A tense back-alley confrontation—in the rain, of course—where Cho is nearly run down by the killer plays out dramatically like a bullfight, but it screams out with more than a few gaping holes in simple common sense (I guess South Koreans don't use any kind of license plates).

I don't claim to fully understand all that went on during the ending, but I do know it was visually stunning, if nothing else. The excessive plot twists—a couple so hard to follow that I didn't really fully comprehend them—left me with an uneasy and confused feeling, not entirely unlike how I felt at the conclusion of Se7en, though for different reasons. The absence of a heavily-explained and clearly spelled out climax will probably leave a lot of viewers out in the cold, but I think more adventurous film fans will appreciate the method in which it is delivered, all set to the icy cool drone of Red Right Hand from Nick Cave.

I have watched this film twice, and I still don't have all the answers. I'm not sure if it's a flaw in the writing, directing or just an example of artistic cinematic vagueness. The thing is, I don't really care. What I know for certain is that this is a nice-looking—and creepy—thriller.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Kino loses brownie points on the image quality, coming up with a flawed 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen transfer that is peppered by a distracting amount of white specks. The overall color field runs a bit too red (and I mean just a bit), especially on fleshtones. Black levels are strong, and image detail—when it's not marred by those damn white specks—is equally solid.

The blemishes, minor as they are, occur during most of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English,Koreanyes


Audio Transfer Review: While the image could have been better, there is good news on the audio transfer. Two 5.1 tracks, one in original Korean and the other an English dub, provide plenty of ambient surround cues, with lots of rain and minor score elements popping up for dramatic effect. Dialogue is anchored up front, accented with some well-place imaging (cars, screams) to create a not overly aggressive mix that is deceptively full and effective.

I recommend the original Korean track, as I found the stiff reading on the English dub to be almost comically mismatched with the onscreen action.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:04s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: A photo gallery of 50+ images from the film, as well as of some promotional material, is nicely done, but not entirely necessary. I've never been a big fan of the whole photo gallery concept on DVD, and it typically reeks of convenient fluff filler. Rounding out the limited supplementals are the requisite subtitles in English, 16 chapters and a theatrical trailer

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

You want a dark and gruesome serial killer tale? If so, then Tell Me Something is for you. This is a slyly complex and layered film, and the script never condescends to the lowest common denominator by explaining away too much.

Had Kino managed to clean up the print a bit this disc would be almost perfect, but a pair of solid 5.1 mixes (English and Korean) manage to almost balance things out. Plus, any movie that uses a remix of the wonderfully gloomy Nick Cave's Red Right Hand just has to be good. Right?

Highly recommended.

 


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