This one is for fans of Squid Game and, specifically, Wi Ha Jun (the cop). I first saw him as a very nice man/second ML in the rather cozy Romance is a Bonus Book (which I’d recommend as a very hygge kdrama pick-me-up) so seeing him first as a morally dubious character in Squid Game was jarring enough. But then he took that honest-looking face and played a serial killer in Midnight, so the next time I watch BB I’ll be worried about that cute doggo he dotes over in it.
There’s not much preamble in this brisk, economically-storied film and that is refreshing. An unnamed woman is abducted by seemingly normal (aren’t they all) guy, Do-shik (Wi) who doesn’t look like a murder (do they ever?). But then the murder calls the cops himself, gives a harrowed testimony and then drives off into the night. He’s clean-shaven, wears a suit and has a natural-looking, broad smile, so of course nobody would suspect him.
But when he tries to capture his next target, he’s accidentally thwarted by Kyeong-mi (Jin Ki-joo), a young deaf woman who was on her way home. Thus begins a tense game of cat-and-mouse across the streets of Seoul during the titular timeframe.
Unlike similar movie Hush, the film takes Ki-joo’s deafness and goes to creative lengths with it, showing us not just how she uses tools for accessibility at home, work and on the road, but also how she’s perceived and treated by authority figures, customers and random passers-by as a whole. All of it is frustrating to watch, but in a brilliant way that smartly amps up the already existing tension. Both Ki-joo and Do-shik know they need to keep their wits sharp to survive – because of who they are and what they do, respectively – and that makes for a more entertaining chase. Nobody makes a bad decision in this film, and both actors are magnetic to watch, with Jin solidly nailing the more challenging role.
While this is definitely Kyeong-mi’s story, I would have liked a bit more characterisation of the supporting characters – especially Jong Tak (Park Hoon), for whom I needed clarification on what his job was (I thought he was a cop). But this is a minor gripe. I cared about the characters’ survival, and Cha Taek-gyun‘s lush cinematography brings the neon-soaked streets of South Korea’s capital into its own character.