A long time ago Chae-ryeong (played by Go Jung-min) was subjected to a terrible crime, which aside from some immediate tension is given surprisingly little focus. The essential facts are laid out pretty simply- Chae-ryeong was hurt, and didn't get any help from her friends. Whether there was much they could have done, or if it was reasonable to expect much of them, what with their being dumb teenagers and all, is left unclear. But in the present day, at least, Chae-ryeong appears amenable to reuniting with them.
While the emotional focus is clearly on Chae-ryeong, the narrative focus is on her cohorts, who know what happened and upon Chae-ryeong's reappearance are promptly driven to paranoia. It's said that we don't remember the enemies who persecute us so much as the friends who stood by and did nothing. Chae-ryeong's friends, at least, are clearly keeping this idea in mind even as Chae-ryeong's thought process remains vague.
It is cleared up at the end without a doubt who was responsible for Chae-ryeong's death, and what was really going through her mind when she decided to reconnect with old friends. And the revelation is a devastating one. Chae-ryeong's motives were not completely benign. She did, in fact, want something from them. It's a testament to the enduring power of the emotional impact of betrayal that Chae-ryeong failed in her goals, wringing an awful tragedy that clearly will linger on in the lives of the surviving characters forever.
Initially I felt uncertainty about "Drama Special - Friendly Criminal", as the initial exposition appears mainly to be going for shock value. But director No Sang-hoon has crafted something truly special here. The tension is constant and palpable. We feel Chae-ryeong's regrets, and we feel her friends' fears. The collision of these two points, and the way they reverberate in memory, truly elevate the drama from a simple detective story into a tragic tale of the human condition.
Even in genre terms this is a fairly well-crafted mystery, but it's the sinking horrific realization at the end which really sells the deep darkness of human emotion logic. The performance of the cast is excellent, clearly signifying an atmosphere so heavily steeped in guilt that it's easy to feel sorry for them. At the same time, it becomes all too clear that they're reliving the same failure all over again, only realizing too late that they're repeating the same mistake. Such is the tragedy of having to live life without villains.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Friendly Criminal""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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