When supernatural elements feature within a thriller film, the production can go one of two ways. The suspense generated from the unknown can heighten the intensity of the events that unfold, adding an original spin to the genre; or, on the other hand, the abilities and powers can appear as cheap gimmicks that add a decidedly silly dimension to the proceedings. The Gifted Hands – aka Psychometry (사이코메트리) – easily falls into the latter category, although between this, the horrendous script, and the appalling acting, it is difficult to know where exactly to fully place the blame for such a ridiculous, vacuous film. Director Kwon Ho-young (권호영) attempts to generate tension amongst his generally competent direction, but it’s not enough to save the frankly awful thriller from being instantly forgettable.
The joke of his precinct, detective Yang Choon-dong (Kim Kang-woo (김강우) regularly causes trouble for his superiors and rarely solves cases. His ineffective style has made him an outsider in the police force, so when a woman reports her daughter as kidnapped he takes the case while the others scoff. When the girl is later found murdered and a scapegoat is required, Choon-dong is blamed and suspended. Distraught, the detective happens upon some graffiti that accurately portrays events of the murder in a startling amount of detail. Tracking down the artist responsible, Choon-dong discovers that the young man named Joon (Kim Beom (김범) has the supernatural ability of psychometry, the power to see events through touch, and the duo set out to catch the murderer before he strikes again.
The Gifted Hands begins badly, only to become progressively worse. Ignoring the fundamental rule of the thriller genre in hooking the audience within the opening sequence, the scenes of Joon painting the location of the murder are dull yet are also a huge editing faux pas as the scene actually takes place a good twenty minutes later in the movie. Following the opening credits, the film’s ‘true’ beginning takes place during an over-zealous pyramid scheme in which detective Yang is a participant. Immediately the ineffective cop is portrayed as an utter idiot through these attempts at comedy which are not in the least bit funny, as Yang desperately tries to save his dignity and the reputation of the force from his blunder. The detective is clearly an underdog cliche evolving from bumbling fool to responsible cop, which in itself is no bad thing were it not for the awful acting by Kim Kang-woo. The actor performs the ineffective cop as a manic-depressive petulant child, flitting between whining like a teenager to bursts of violence. To be fair to Kim the script also calls for such absurdity in the attempt to provide multiple genres, clearly a cynical move to attract all but ultimately pleasing none, yet the actor certainly doesn’t help himself.
While detective Yang’s story is foregrounded, bizarrely Joon is sidelined. For a film containing supernatural features, Joon’s psychometry abilities appear more like an afterthought rather than the basis for the thriller, so much so that the protagonist infrequently appears throughout. Despite Joon’s cliched emo melancholy – black clothing, hoody, creative talent, misunderstood, etc etc – actor Kim Beom provides an adequate performance, although he is intended to look sullen and attractive for the most part. His psychometry ability is woefully under-utilized within the context of the narrative as well as inherently misunderstood by the writer. During the first of only two times in which Joon uses art to express his gift, it is explained that he was able to do so in such incredible detail, featuring moments from various points throughout the timeline of the murder, because he touched a pigeon who was passing overhead. Seriously.
Such ridiculous logic continues to arise as the investigation for the killer, and a newly abducted victim, moves forward. For no reason other than detective Yang is in need of a car, he teams up with a petty criminal sidekick who informs the cop that as the first girl was found frozen before she was buried, the killer must be a single man. The reason? All single men freeze their trash before throwing it out. As the graffiti artist depicting the murder, Joon is of course the chief suspect, but as he doesn’t freeze his trash, he is immediately discounted as the criminal. Such instances are incredibly frustrating, as flimsy hunches are employed and conducted with no solid evidence or basis, making it a wonder how any crimes are solved within this particular district. Yet for all of detective Yang’s newfound verve for solving the case, the kidnapping is ironically dropped from the narrative in order to develop the ‘bromance’ between him and Joon – through more comedy and psychologically unbalanced violence. A brief respite appears in the form of potential love interest Seung-gi (승기, Esom (이솜), although as she appears twice and provides nothing of merit the character is wholly unnecessary.
For all of the silliness, director Kwon Ho-young does a competent job at the helm, and attempts to inject the film with tension and suspense whenever the script allows. He does well for the most part, that is until the asinine logic kicks in once more. Locating the murderer is well-staged while the mise-en-scene of the apartment is suitably morbid, yet the compulsion is completely lost when the psychopath begins monologuing about how he simply has no reason or motivation for what he does – only to later explain it anyway. The Gifted Hands is a great example of interesting concept, lazy execution.
The Gifted Hands spectacularly fails as a supernatural thriller. Featuring an awful script full of holes and bizarre logic, bad acting particularly from the (unintentionally) mentally unbalanced central protagonist, as well as wasting the potential of psychometry itself, the film really is a shambles. Director Kwon Ho-young performs competently at the helm, but it is not enough to save the vacuous thriller from being instantly forgettable.