This is director Jung Byung-gil's first mainstream feature; he first drew notice for his 2008 documentary film about Korean stunt men, Action Boys. Produced by Dasepo Club co. Ltd, and distributed by Showbox, it was released on November 8, 2012 and ran for 119 minutes.
Choi Hyeong-goo (Jung Jae-young) is a detective who was in charge of hunting down a serial killer who claimed the lives of 10 women from 1986 to 1990, and whom Choi suspects is responsible for the kidnapping and possible murder of another. He managed to hunt down the killer, but lost him after a fierce fight that left Choi nearly dead and permanently scarred. Before the killer vanished however, Choi managed to shoot him in the shoulder.
The film begins in 2005, on the day the 15-year statute of limitations expired, thus rendering prosecution impossible. Choi is now an alcoholic, haunted by his failure to solve the case. He suddenly receives a worrying call from Jung Hyun-sik (Ryoo Je-seung) a family member of one of the victims. Choi rushes to his apartment, only to see Jung throw himself off a roof and land through the windshield of a passing bus.
Two years later, Choi is alerted to the news that a man called Lee Doo-seok (Park Si-hoo) has released a book titled I am the Murderer, claiming responsibility for the murders that took place 17 years ago. His book contains detailed descriptions of the murders, and he even displays a wound in his shoulder where he says Choi shot him, with the bullet still lodged there. His book becomes a bestseller because of the author’s charming looks and his claims of repentance for his crimes. He stages public visits to the homes of family members to beg for forgiveness, and even visits Choi at his precinct. Choi himself however, insists that Lee is in fact an imposter.
As the media frenzy surrounding Lee increases, some family members of the victims gather together to plot their revenge. They are led by Han Ji-soo (Kim Young-ae), whose daughter Kang Soo-yeon was the still-missing 11th victim. Snakes are released into Lee's hotel swimming pool during his daily swim, resulting in him getting bitten. The family members then pose as a paramedic unit sent to take Lee to the hospital. They are discovered and pursued by members of Lee's security unit as well as Choi, but manage to get away with an unconscious Lee after a lengthy and dangerous car chase.
Choi recognizes who the kidnappers are, but refuses to reveal his suspicions. Instead he goes out of his way to track down where Lee is being held, and stages a daring rescue, much to the consternation of the family members. He leaves Lee in a motel room with a note telling him to not make a fuss about the incident if he valued his life. Lee for his part tells the media that the kidnappers were a group of overzealous fans and that he will not press charges.
A television station then invites both Choi and Lee to be on a debate show to discuss the case. A daughter of one of the victims decides to head to the station to kill Lee when he comes out of the studio. During the show, a man calling himself J calls in to speak to Lee, and reveals that he knows many personal facts about Choi. J then drops a bombshell, saying that he is in fact the real killer. Choi then goes to trace the call, while Lee himself is shot when he leaves the studio, resulting in him being hospitalized again.
The phone call is traced to Choi's mother's house, where J has left a video tape containing footage of the 11th victim Soo-yeon being tied up and later killed. It is then revealed that she was also Choi's girlfriend. Upon analyzing the contents of the tape, Choi calls for a press conference to tell the public that despite all this, it cannot be determined whether Lee or J is the killer.
Lee continues to insist that he is the real killer, and another television debate is arranged between him, Choi and J to settle the matter once and for all. The debate draws thousands of protestors and fans, as well as Han Ji-soo, who carries a pen filled with snake venom, intent upon using it on the real killer.
J arrives and it immediately becomes apparent that he is in fact the killer, as he arranged for a camera crew to be led to the remains of his final victim, Soo-yeon. Confronted with this, Lee then makes his own revelation, admitting that not only is he not the killer, but that he also did not write the book. In fact, it was Choi who wrote the book in an attempt to flush out the real killer, using his own detailed knowledge of the crimes. Lee turns out to be Jung Hyun-sik, who worked together with Choi to fake his own death and who underwent plastic surgery to assume a new identity.
Although surprised at the elaborate scheme, J claims that Choi cannot do anything to him, as the statute of limitations has long expired. Choi then plays the tape of Soo-yeon, revealing that a radio broadcast in the background proves that the footage was shot almost to that exact date in 1992, and that in fact he still has 14 minutes until the statute of limitations truly expires.
J then admits that he kept Soo-yeon with him for two years, and that when he finally decided to kill her, she claimed to be carrying his child in the vain hope that he would spare her. This enrages Choi so much that he attempts to kill J, but J makes an escape, leading to another intense chase scene.
Choi finally catches up to J, and is stopped from killing him just in time. Both Lee/Jang and Han Ji-soo try to kill J as he is being led away in handcuffs, but it ends up being Choi who stabs him with the poisoned pen, thus avenging all the victims and preventing any of the family members from being convicted of the crime.
The film ends five years later in 2012, when Choi is released from jail to be greeted by the media and the grateful group of victim's family members. It is also mentioned that because of this case, the statute of limitations was extended to 25 years.Jung Jae-young as Choi Hyeong-goo, a police detective
Park Si-hoo as Lee Doo-seok
Jeong Hae-gyoon as J
Kim Young-ae as Han Ji-soo, the victim's mother
Choi Won-young as Jeong Tae-seok, the victim's brother
Jo Eun-ji as Choi Kang-sook
Min Ji-ah as Kang Soo-yeon, Hyeong-goo's ex-girlfriend
Jang Gwang as a chief producer in the TV broadcasting company
Lee Jae-goo as Director Park as a TV program director
Kim Min-sang as Jeong Min-kwon
Ryoo Je-seung as Jung Hyun-sik
The film received positive review ratings on local Internet portals, and sold 1.2 million tickets in its first week of release. Despite being rated 18, it sold two million tickets by its 18th day of release. It was scheduled to be released in Japan in 2013.
The film ranked second and grossed ₩5,458,263,251 in its first week of release, and grossed a total of ₩19,955,985,636 domestically after six weeks of screening.
The film was remade in 2017 by Yu Irie, starring Hideaki Itō and Tatsuya Fujiwara in the lead roles.
The film was remaked to a South Indian Malayalam Movie Angels directed by Jean Markose starring Indrajith. It was a moderate success and hit.
2013 Baeksang Arts AwardsBest Screenplay – Jung Byung-gil
2013 Grand Bell AwardsBest New Director – Jung Byung-gil
Nomination – Best New Actor – Park Si-hoo
Nomination – Best Cinematography – Kim Ki-tae
Nomination – Best Editing – Nam Na-yeong
2013 Brussels International Fantastic Film FestivalThriller Competition Winner
2014 Golden Cinema FestivalSilver Medal for Cinematography – Kim Ki-tae