Park Hae-il did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Park Hyeon-gyu in Memories of Murder.
Park Hae-il appears rather late into the film as a man who the detectives, Park Doo-man (Song Kang-ho) and Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung), believe may be the killer. His connection to the crimes come in a single song he requested that plays on the radio every time the murders occur though it is also every time it rains at night. Park Hae-il's performance as the subject is a very interesting one, and essential to serving his purpose in the film, which is to be a giant question mark. I have to say what he does here is rather remarkable in that his performance actually forces the viewer into the same viewpoint as Detectives Seo and Park find themselves in. In that the first time I watched the film I was convinced that he was guilty. This was through his portrayal of the quiet dispassion that seemed that of psychopath, there was a sinister distance as he answered the questions as guilty man simply thriving on the knowledge that they have no hard evidence against him. However watching the film again his performance plays a different way which is fascinating. That dispassion can be interpreted less as something sinister. It not only can reflect an earned distaste for the police, earned due to the random brutality of one of their members, but also suggests perhaps just an anti-social man living a difficult isolated life.
Park's performance remains though an enigma, yet his work never feels vague in this. Again in the initial viewing his few later scenes, after his initial interrogation, he is off-putting as seeming to be the killer gloating against his foes for their inability to catch him. On re-watch though this can be as easily viewed as a man already living an unpleasant life becoming understandably ill at ease with such severe accusations being made against him. Again it is yet another brilliant element of this film this idea that it make you get caught up in the evidence, the evidence against the man that you believe to be airtight yet becomes much more flimsy once the emotion surrounding it dies down. Of course again in that initial viewing right when you are with the detectives, in all of their frustrations and pain over the case, there is a desire for some sort of closure somewhere, and the only candidates seems in Park's off putting man. It is then easy enough to get caught up in the final confrontation where detective Seo is about to kill the man in cold blood after another murder has taken place. Again Park's turn only seems to encourage this as the unrepentant killer, who admits his guilt only with palatable disdain in the heat of the moment. Again though on re-evaluation Park evokes a real fear in the scene suggesting that perhaps the man is just fearful for his life, though perhaps through his military life he reacts to fear through some external anger rather than falling apart as most would. This is terrific performance as in a few scenes he creates this captivating figure that is mystery one can't quite decipher. He allows either interpretation of his character to be valid, yet is genuine in his performance. It is truly remarkable since his performance makes his character frustrating in the right way. You can't quite get a bead on him as Park leads with a fork in the road as this unpleasant behavior could be of a serial killer, or man who has no affection for the world yet is harmless.