놈의 살인에는 이유가 있다.
승진 때마다 후배에게 밀리는 강력계 만년 형사 ‘상길(송강호)’. 어느 날 그에게 고과도 낮은 분신 자살 사건과 함께 순찰대 출신의 새파란 신참 여형사 ‘은영(이나영)’까지 파트너로 떠맡겨진다. 상길은 울며 겨자 먹기로 수사를 시작하지만 조사 결과 이는 정교하게 제작된 시한벨트발화장치에 의한 계획된 살인임을 알아낸다. 상길은 승진 욕심에 상부에 보고도 않은 채 독단적인 수사에 나서고 은영은 사체에서 발견된 짐승의 이빨자국에 주목하지만 상길은 은영의 의견을 무시할 뿐이다. 그러던 중 짐승에 의한 살인사건이 발생하고, 은영은 지난번과 이번 사건이 서로 연결되어 있음을 직감한다. 사건의 심각성에도 불구하고 여전히 단독 수사를 감행하는 상길과 어쩔 수 없이 상길을 따라야 하는 은영. 마침내 두 사람은 피해자들의 몸에 공통된 이빨자국이 늑대와 개의 혼혈인 늑대개의 것임을 그리고 피해자들이 과거 서로 알던 사이였음을 밝혀 내는데……
늑대개는 대체 왜 이들을 살해한 것일까?
The crime drama “Howling” is the film adaptation of a Japanese novel by female writer Wasa Nonami. The original novel, roughly translated as “Frozen Fangs,” pivots around a female detective who comes to empathize with a mysterious wolf-like creature that has been raised as a murder weapon. While the Korean film is true to the original work on the whole, a great deal of weight is also given to a male protagonist, played by versatile actor Song Kang-ho.
Here’s the plot. Ambitious detective Sang-gil can’t wait to get a promotion. He is upset when he takes on an insignificant suicide case where a man immolated himself. He becomes more frustrated as he is ordered to work with a female rookie named Eun-young. Sang-gil thinks that the victim was, in fact, murdered by a sophisticated lighting device, while his partner Eun-young notices animal tooth marks on the body. Soon after, another murder involving a beast is reported. The pair of detectives suspect that it is a serial murder case.
Although Eun-young, the only female detective on her team, is greeted with scorn by her male colleagues all the time, she manages to discover that the murder victims had known each other and underage sex trafficking is involved in the case. She also finds out that the victims were all killed by a giant wolf-like dog that was raised by a former police dog trainer. It turns out the trainer’s young daughter had fallen victim to child prostitution by a sex trafficking gang. The heartbroken, revenge-obsessed father trained his wolf-dog to kill the gang members. As trained, the loyal dog has been hunting down the perpetrators and kills them one after another. Now, Eun-young chases the animal to save both the last remaining perpetrator and the wolf-dog.
Many film critics note that the action-thriller is basically about the socially marginalized, with an inexperienced female detective featured as the lead character. The former patrol woman finds herself becoming a complete outsider in her new team simply because she is the only female member. The divorcee lacks feminine charm, which makes her even more unpopular with her macho coworkers. According to director Yoo Ha, even the wolf-dog, which isn’t exactly a dog but isn’t a wolf, either, symbolizes a minority stuck in the middle. In the movie, Eun-young suffers discrimination, rude jokes and even sexual harassment by her colleagues. But it is the female detective herself who finds an important clue to the case, which other veteran cops fail to notice.
The film brings to light “male violence” that is widespread in society through child sex trafficking?the cause of the brutal serial murders?and the discrimination the heroine endures in the workplace. It is a modern detective movie, but it uses a rather primitive subject of the “wolf-dog.” It also ranges across a wide emotional spectrum, which doesn’t seem to be a typical element for a crime thriller, but certainly appeals to female audiences. The disparate elements are mixed well together, just like the beast in the movie that has both the barbarity of a wolf and the friendless of a faithful dog.