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23 May 2012

Killer Wolf

A killer version of Lassie stalks this cornball but entertaining police thriller that’s a serial killer film for animal lovers!

Original Title: 

Director: Yu Ha

Language: Korean

Screenplay: Yu Ha, based on the novel Kogoeru Kiba by Nonami Asa

Cast: Song Kang Ho, Lee Na Young

Yu Ha's Killer Wolf plays like a strange, toned down mixture of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and a Lassie movie.  From the former you have the bike-riding, spunky heroine who dresses in black leather (even if she's a relatively normal cop this time) and the subtheme of social misogyny and the exploitation of women, from the latter you have a highly cute yet loyal canine who is at the centre of the film that accomplishes feats of intelligence and daring. Except this time, yes, the dog's a wolfhound rather than a border collie, and a serial killer to boot.

Song Kang Ho, one of Korea's best actors, slums it doing a sort of rehash of his boor cop role from Memories of Murder as homicide detective Jo, who is on the trail of two seemingly unconnected murders: one involving a man having burnt to death in his car, and another involving a man who apparently has died from an attack by a giant wolfhound while walking home at night. Joined by the fresh-faced Eun-Young (Lee Na Young) who he at first rejects in part due to his own misogyny (in part shared by the other cops in the department as well). Eun Young is a divorcee whose ex could not stand the demands of her job, and despite being subject to misogyny all around, proves capable of holding her own in solving the case of the killer dog. Though there's also the man who burned to death in his own car as well — could a dog have done it?

The first half of the film is actually fairly unpredictable as it leads you through a sufficient number of red herrings to keep you guessing the connection between the two seemingly unrelated murders, which soon grows to encompass a group of very shady individuals whose operations range from the illegal dog-fighting circuit to child prostitution rings and who also include prominent figures in civil society. This portion of the film remains its best, keeping the suspense and character dynamics between the grizzled Jo (the sort of man who beats up his kid in public over playing hooky for World of Warcraft) and the earnest, compassionate, chipper Eun-Young constantly at play.

When it finally reveals enough, the film turns into a fast-paced thriller and becomes a race against time to stop the serial-killing wolfhound from attacking his next target for his own revenge-crazed master. The character developments and plot filler are the sort of high cornball melodrama that Korean film and television seems to so excel at (including the position of strategically placed tearjerker flashbacks throughout the film accompanied by syrupy swells of music). Not to mention all those scenes where Eun Young stares into the simultaneously watery, fierce and adorable eyes of the titular serial-killing wolfhound as a symbol of their man-animal bond!

A cornball but entertaining police thriller starring a killer version of Lassie, Killer Wolf again proves the Korean knack for hybrid genres and creates probably the first serial killer film for animal lovers.

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