Kim Byeong-gook (Bae Sung-woo) comes home one evening to his Mother, Wife and young disabled child. After eating together, the family settles down to a quiet evening. Kim proceeds to brutally murder his family with a hammer and goes missing. Detective Jong (Park Sung Woong) takes his investigation to Kim’s place of work, but seems to being stonewalled by the employees. Only My-rye (Ko Ah-sung), the young Intern, seems to know something, but she isn’t talking as she is worried about having her job made full-time. Then another intern is employed, piling even more pressure on the already nervous My-rye. Oh, and it seems Kim might well have been hiding out in the Office, as the body count starts to grow.
I really really wanted to like this one. Having worked in an Office during the wee small hours I know how creepy and scary they can be. And the movie makes great use of that environment. It also has the usually excellent Ko Ah-sung in it, and is the directorial debut Hong Won-chan (writer of some great recent movies like ‘The Chaser’ and ‘The Yellow Sea’). Whilst not a complete failure, I am afraid this one did not quite work for me.
In the ‘good stuff’ corner, we have a great concept, moving the stalker/slasher film into the workplace. And whilst the themes of bitchy office politics and the high-pressure environment of Korean business isn’t particularly new or unique, it is a good fit with the idea of an individual just freaking out. Ko does fairly well – her nervous misfit of a character is certainly interesting. The film is at it’s best when simply ramping up the tension and making the most of its unique setting.
Sadly… what makes the film less successful is the plot. Firstly, we have the reveal of the big secret the group are hiding, which is underwhelming to say the least. But that is nothing compared to the utterly muddled and confusing denouement.
So yes, there is a twist. And that twist is fairly predictable. We have another killer, and it is exactly who you think it is. Except… other than two specific incidents, this simply doesn’t explain any of the murders in the previous two thirds of the movie. We never flash back to see what happened, so I have no idea if there were two killers or only one. There’s a Police investigation that doesn’t seem to do anything much in investigative terms, and merely seems to be there to show a mirror to the Office culture.
Basically, “Office” does many things very well. It isn’t anything particularly earth shattering or ground breaking, but for two thirds of the running time, I was interested and invested in what was going on. And even though the final third is in equal parts underwhelming and confusing (I will dare to even suggest a little rushed too), the actual moments of violence and suspense are pretty well done.
The thing is, the film posits a mystery or two, and fails to deliver on any of them. If you are an arthouse film making some kind of wider point you possibly can get away with this – but if you are making a fairly routine genre thriller I believe you have to deliver on certain things. So this one gets recommended, but it’s with a huge side order of disappointment.