There's relatively little actual murder involved in this movie, title notwithstanding. We see one of the deaths incurred by a friendly game of Go-Stop in nearly the first scene. And it's not a violent death, or even a particularly unpleasant one. The character in question just kind of slumps over and dies for no reason. Sang-I (played by Lee Seung-joon-II) is the last man to see her alive, and his lack of reaction to the death of this vague acquaintance is quite fitting. "Go, Stop, Murder" as a whole tackles the subject of these incidents with an oddly academic disinterest. As in, it seems amazing that the outcomes of Go-Stop games could be related to apparently natural death. But nobody's going to, you know, do anything about it.
Take Professor Ahn (played by Kim Hong-pa). The man has assembled quite a bit of data backing up the thesis that Go-Stop is causing people to die, but to him it's more like an intellectual hobby than anything else. This is understandable, given that I doubt the fruits of his research would survive academic rigor. At the same time, though, people are dying. People with families. But Sang-I and Professor Ahn...just don't seem to care, for some reason.
"Go, Stop, Murder" is not a moral treatise on the behavior of these two men, although their general behavior comes off as weird, at best. The strengths of the film lie in the cynical way it explores their casual curiousity. Inevitably, these two start scheming of ways to turn this bizarre anomaly of nature to their advantage. It's nothing ludicrous- they never use the outcomes of the Go-Stop games to outright assassinate people for direct personal gain. Just indirect personal gain, which I guess is somehow less evil?
It's pretty nebulous moral territory. The film makes a specific point about rules- the rules to the game of Go-Stop itself, as well as the rules Sang-I and Professor Ahn are able to deduce about how the game causes people to die. As times goes on, though, the moral rules are bent just as much as the natural ones, creating a situation where both Sang-I and Professor Ahn descend down an increasingly strange path.
The weird part is that neither Sang-I nor Professor Ahn seem to have any idea where they're going, or what they're trying to accomplish. Both of them are so totally enamored with the abstract idea of "Go, Stop, Murder" that they never stop to consider the long-term. The ending is a fitting, albeit somewhat disappointing manifestation of these events. While the characters get off rather easy, in some sense the destruction of their most beloved toy is the punishment best suited for their particular brand of meddling.
Ultimately, "Go, Stop, Murder" is a noir film about a bizarre fantastical plot device that makes very little sense even if the characters are determined to prove that it somehow does. The film does a good job maintaining the inexplicable tension throughout the full runtime- director Kim Joon-kwon does great work with the sound and cinematography creating a world that feels unsettling and weird, yet just barely plausible enough to keep the tone from devolving into dischord. "Go, Stop, Murder" isn't much of a mystery or even an introspection, but it's got an admirably strange feel that makes it difficult to hate.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Go, Stop, Murder""
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