The actual number of crimes committed is always higher than the official documented figures, because many crimes go unreported or undiscovered. Crime experts call this missing figure of unreported crimes the Dark Figure of Crime
. Inspired by a tragic real-life case, Kim Tae Gyun's crime drama brings attention to what this dark figure means: unknown victims for whom justice can never be served.
Dark Figure of Crime unfolds as a cat-and-mouse game between a persistent detective portrayed by Kim Yoon Seok and an incarcerated killer played by Ju Ji Hoon. Narcotics detective Kim Hyung Min (Kim Yoon Seok) meets informant Kang Tae Oh (Ju Ji Hoon) for the first time at a restaurant, only to see him get arrested for murder. While in detention, Tae Oh tells Hyung Min that he has killed six other people before getting caught for killing his girlfriend. To pick up the case, Hyung Min transfers to the homicide division. Based on the bits and pieces of elusive information – some true, some lies – that Tae Oh provides, Hyung Min begins to search for the bodies and identities of the nameless victims who left the world without anyone knowing. Meanwhile, Tae Oh lures Hyung Min into traps that could help him build a case for retrial.
In most murder mysteries, the detective is trying to find and catch the killer. In Dark Figure of Crime, the killer is caught at the story's start, and the detective is instead trying to find the victims. It is a murder mystery for which there can be no great reveal beyond confirming the murders happened. Though Hyung Min faces pressure from the station for devoting resources and risking police reputation over unverified crimes committed by a man already in jail, the story poignantly conveys the long-due urgency and importance of providing names for the victims and answers to their families.
Co-written by Kwak Kyung Taek, Dark Figure of Crime bares thematic similarities to The Classified File and RV: Resurrected Victims, approaching the crime suspense from a different angle that seeks answers and closure through unconventional routes. The nuanced and methodically paced script relies greatly on the strong performances by the leads. Ju Ji Hoon gives one of the best performances of his career as the psychopathic killer who is uncooperative yet conversational, monstrous yet human, casually callous yet oddly easy-going – until he suddenly explodes. Kim Yoon Seok is excellent as always as the wary, rule-flouting detective who calmly puts his career on the line to find the victims. The roundabout conversations between the two in which Tae Oh selectively discloses and Hyung Min selectively believes, each gauging the other's motives and moves, are highlights of the film.