As part of the Pacific Rim Showcase of the Newport Beach Film Festival, The Queen of Crime is the Korean entrant to this year’s festival. It is the story of a mother, who investigates a $1,200 water bill that was mysteriously charged to her son.
Release Date: April 24, 2017
Writer: Lee Yo-Sup
Director: Lee Yo-Sup
Cast: Soo-Jang Baek, Som E., Ji-Young Park
Mi-gyeong (Ji-Young Park) is the owner of a local beauty salon just outside of Seoul. One afternoon, she receives a mysterious phone call from her son, Ik-soo (Dae-Hyeon Kim). Ik-soo is a law student in Seoul and has somehow managed to rack up a $1,200 water bill in his dormitory. Ik-soo is just 4 days away from taking the bar exam and does not need the distraction of a $1,200 water bill. Rather than just pay the outrageous bill, Mi-gyeong pays her son a visit in order to help investigate the bill.
Mi-gyeong’s arrival is not welcome by her son, who needs to concentrate on his studies in order to pass the bar. Mi-gyeong insists that she will not be a distraction and only needs two days to clear up the matter. In her investigation Mi-gyeong learns that her son’s dorm room shares the water bill with his next door neighbor. Mi-gyeong enlists the help of the building’s maintenance man, Gae-tae (Bok-rae Jo) to help her. In fact, she develops a motherly bond with Gae-tae who has no mother to look after him.
Mi-gyeong finds that her son’s neighbor is less than willing to help clear up the matter. In fact, the other neighbors complained about loud noises and suspicious activities coming from the apartment. It appears there is a larger mystery than the flagrant waste of water. Soon, Mi-gyeong’s meddling begins to interfere with her son’s studying, which leads to him wanting his mother to just pay the water bill and leave.
The Queen of Crime is a light comedy thriller, but very subtle at that. If this were an American film, the story would be littered with goofy over-the-top characters. Everyone would be mugging for a laugh. Refreshingly, The Queen of Crime plays the comedy grounded. These are real people with minor quirks but they could be someone you know. The supporting cast includes a law student, who likes to study outside and has a shoe fetish; a lonely gamer, who left the police academy where her father is the commissioner; and the maintenance man, who is a little slow on the uptake.
The crime story is not complicated. The movie reveals one clue after the other at a nice pace. The real fun is watching Ji-Young Park as the concerned mother, who only wants the best for her son. She plays it normal, not like the stereotypical meddling mother. She has good intentions with the aged wisdom that only a mother can have. She treats everyone vital to the case like only a mother can do with soft assurance that she is their advocate and the stern warnings of a mother lion protecting her cubs.
There are plot holes in the mystery. The film uses flashbacks when witnesses describe what they saw. We start to see the crime played out in interview segments. But there are moments when the camera follows the criminal and although we are a party to the motivation for the crime, there is no way for Mi-gyeong to know any of this information because only the criminal knows this part of the crime.
I enjoy the Pacific Rim Showcase at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It continues to blow my misperceptions of foreign films, thinking that the United States is the best at film and storytelling. There is a level of maturity in filmmaking you see in U.S. films, but one must not confused the cultural differences of foreign films as inferior.
The Queen of Crime is a fun mystery with a fantastic lead in Ji-Young Park. Foreign films are worth the work involved in reading subtitles, but the storytelling is just different than what we’re used to as well as the same.
7 out of 10 stars