DECISION TO LEAVE
REVIEW: DECISION TO LEAVE
Release Date: 21st October 2022
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il
Written by: Jeong Seo-kyeong, Park Chan-wook
Cinematography: Kim Ji-yong
``a frustrating experience``
In this neo-noir murder mystery co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook, Jang Hae-jun (Park Hae-il) is a Busan detective working the case of a businessman found dead at the bottom of a mountain. The businessman’s wife Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei), doesn’t appear to be too upset about her husband’s death, and she soon becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation. But when the detective places her under surveillance, he begins to become increasingly obsessed with her.
Let’s start with the positives. This obsession aspect between Jang and Song is well executed. Park has come up with a very inventive way of visually conveying information about what two characters who are physically apart are feeling, and what happens to that dynamic when one character discovers something about the other.
Decision to Leave is the least weird movie that Park Chan-wook has made in a long time. With heavy nods to Hitchcock’s Vertigo (not a personal favourite), and Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (never a good thing), there are certainly elements of film noir at play. Park Hae-il’s detective could hardly be described as the hard-boiled type, but Tang Wei’s character is certainly cut from the femme fatale cloth. Some of this works, but unfortunately a lot of it doesn’t. It’s certainly stylish, but too often it’s style over substance.
Up to a point, it’s not difficult to become wrapped up in the noir-ish narrative, but things start to become annoying the longer it goes on. At nearly 2 ½ hours, Deecision to Leave feels like an eternity, and not much is introduced over the course of this interminable length that dispels the impression that it’s much ado about nothing.
For a detective, Hae-jun is pretty rubbish at his job. It doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to figure out what’s going on here. A lot of what develops is fairly obvious, and Decision to Leave is another one of those movies where the audience will be a few steps ahead of the protagonist, waiting for him to catch up with them. It’s a frustrating experience.
Everything gets quite busy quite quickly. Park throws a lot of stuff at the screen and a lot of it doesn’t stick. The plot is incredibly convoluted, with Hae-jun involved with at least three different cases, not including the main one with Seo-rae that ought to be the main focus. But sometimes convoluted can be okay. Contrived though, not so much, and some of these plot developments are incredibly contrived. The side cases end up leading nowhere, so the question must be asked; apart from dragging the innards out of the whole thing, what was the point of introducing them in the first place?