Amid Seoul’s amphetamised neon squalor, baby-faced psychopath Ha Jung-Woo kills prostitutes with his bag of rusty tools. After he’s incarcerated by clueless coppers, his latest victim wakes up bleeding in a bricked-up basement, and her pimp (Kim Yun-Seok) has just hours to save her before red tape dictates the murderer be freed.
Those whose impatience overrides their appetite for spurty, South Korean-style vengeance will despair of Na Hong-Jin’s debut; it’s not so much a race against time as a battle against the grinding lunacy of police procedure. Painstakingly assembled, it’s also painfully overlong. A while it’s refreshing to see a thriller where the difference between life and death is decided by interrupted phone signals and bloody-minded bureaucracy, it’s frustrating that it drags its feet before going, belatedly, for the jugular.