The Korean mystery-thriller “Heart Blackened” is a remake of the 2013 Chinese film “Silent Witness,” but neither title properly sells this alternately glitzy and tawdry tale of crime among the super-rich. “Death of a Pop Star” would’ve been grabbier. Or perhaps “Murder-in-law.”
Choi Min-sik stars as Im Tae-san, a corporate titan about to marry the ultimate trophy wife: Yuna (Lee Ha-nui), a young singing superstar. When Yuna is killed under mysterious circumstances, the authorities go after Im’s daughter Mira (Lee Soo-kyung), who’d publicly expressed disgust with her would-be stepmother’s sometimes-scandalous celebrity.
Most of “Heart Blackened” takes place during the sensational trial, which features twists and surprises galore — at least one of which comes courtesy of an obsessed Yuna fan (played by Ryu Jun-yeol), who promises some pertinent information he obtained while stalking her.
Writer-director Jung Ji-woo follows too deliberate a pace in the first half of the film, and muddles the story with some not always clearly differentiated flashbacks. But after the elder Im attempts a bold move to save Mira, the narrative straightens out, and the drama intensifies.
More importantly, throughout “Heart Blackened” Jung remains aware that the major appeal of this picture is its behind-the-facade look at the powerful and famous. Even at its most serious and sophisticated, it retains the pleasingly funky aroma of pulp.
Review by NOEL MURRAY