A remake of the 2013 Chinese film "Silent Witness", "Heart Blackened" combines the trial drama with the crime film, in a story full of plot twists.
Mi-ra, the daughter of Im Tae-san, the CEO of a multinational company, has some trouble accepting her father's new wife, famous singer Yoo-na. On a night where the girl is drunk, and right before her father's marriage, she witnesses a sex tape her future stepmother has shot in the past and decides to confront her. The next day, Yoo-na is found dead and Mi-ra is arrested as the main suspect, although she seems to remember nothing of the accident. Im hires a young lawyer named Choi Hee-jeong to defend his daughter, but eventually, Dong-myeong, an obsessed fan of the deceased, comes forward with a video that shows what really happened. Tae-san decides then, to take matters in his hands, with his main opponent being Prosecutor Dong Seong-sik, who seems unwavering by Tae-san's offers. As the revelations follow one another, the story changes constantly and the truth is nowhere to be found.
Jeong Ji-woo weaves an intricate web that revolves around a video and the will of a man to go to extremes, in his considerable power, to save his daughter. Regarding the narrative though, Ji-woo has some issues, particularly in the first part of the movie, with the abrupt cuts, the continuous back and forths, the various side arcs (Dong-myeong's obsession with Yoo-na and the friendship between the lawyer and the prosecutor) messing up the storyline to a fault. The second part though, after Tae-san's monologue in court, is clearer, and even sheds some light to the events of the first.
All the while, Jeong Ji-woo retains aesthetics similar to those of pulp stories, with the lives (and the sins) of the rich and famous serving as a much fitting base. In this setting, the main question the story provides come to the fore. How much influence over justice, but even people's lives, do the rich and powerful actually have?
Kim Tae-kyng's cinematography is quite good in the various settings of the film, that include night clubs, restaurants, boats, the courtroom, etc, as he depicts the various locations in perfect harmony with the film's aesthetics. Wang Sung-ik's editing has its problems, as stated before, but in the last part, he delivers to the fullest.
Choi Min-sik is great once more, as Im Tae-san, as he portrays a man filled with cunningness and cruel pragmatism, but also desperate to save his daughter. His monologue in the court is probably the film's most memorable moment, in terms of acting. Ryu Jun-yeol as Kim Dong-myeong and Park Hae-joon as Dong Seong-sik function quite frequently as caricatures, which again serves quite good in the film's pulp aesthetics, while Park Shin-hye as Choi Hee-jeong provides a more "serious" brush.
"Heart Blackened", despite some faults in the narrative, provides much entertainment, although it could have been much more impactful if Jeong Ji-woo was a bit more careful with his presentation. Definitely deserves a watch though.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "Heart Blackened""
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