For years now, South Korean cinema has been crafting some of the best thriller and mystery films that demand absolute attention from anyone that loves film. The new label from Right Stuf Inc., Five Point Pictures, have now graced us with yet another film that rightfully belongs up there with the likes of Memories of Murder, Oldboy and The Chaser, titled Moss (Iggi). Ryu (Hae-il Park), gets a phone call that his estranged father has passed away in the small village that he was living in. When Ryu gets there, the various locals, including the village chief, Cheon (Jae-young Jeong) act very strange towards him and constantly badger him on when he’ll be leaving. Ryu slowly begins to realize that the town contains many secrets and decides to stay until he finds out the secrecy behind the relationship of Cheon and his father, as well as the mystery of his death. Released in 2010 in South Korea, it has now made our shores a whole two years later, but certainly worth the wait.
The first 20 minutes of Moss presents everything about Ryu’s father and the beginning of his and Cheon’s relationship in plain view. While it presents the very nature’s that they exhibit throughout the entire film, it is a red herring. It is pure manipulation on director Kang Woo-Suk’s part and plays out until the very final frame. There are plenty of elements of the film that don’t lead up to much or when we do find out reasons for foul play amongst the villagers, it doesn’t amount enough for awkward hostility. Yet, I found myself engrossed, right along the side of Ryu as is plummeted into the world that his father inadvertently created.
Where the film lacks in any remote visual style or any sort of flair for that matter, relies heavily on its cast. Hae-il Park’s Ryu is charming and good natured that makes it easy for us to follow him. Jae-young Jeong, even donning old man make up still manages to captivate and convince in both his elder form, as well as his role as a no good detective in a series of flashbacks. Every single actor, from the villagers to Ryu’s rival, prosecutor Min-Wook Park (Jun-sang Yoo) consistently add to the gravitas of the mystery, as well as captivate the audience for more interplay between each one of them.
Even with a lengthy running time and plenty of red herrings that ultimately lead to somewhat unsatisfying ends, Moss still managed to engross me completely. I’d recommend it to anyone that has enjoyed the current wave of South Korean thrillers, while it may not live up to some of its predecessors, its still an accomplished film in its own right. Recommended!