‘A Killer Paradox’ Review: Does The South Korean Netflix Show Hold On To The Promised Intensity?


A Killer Paradox is the latest addition to the South Korean collection on Netflix, with the show being an intense crime thriller with eight episodes, each about an hour long. It is an adaptation of a popular webtoon by the same name, and this has all the more acted in favor of the series, giving it quite the hype in Korea and other parts of Southeast Asia. It would not be wrong to say that the show has delivered on the promised intensity and thrill, as it takes us through various questions of right and wrong, moral and immoral, through its convincing storytelling.

A Killer Paradox is focused on a young man named Lee Tang, and the opening minutes are quite far from any criminal activity. After all, Tang hails from a very normal family that often spends time together, but he feels out of place in such scenarios. Only a few months earlier, Tang had been released from army school, perhaps because he was deemed not good enough, and he is without any significant profession at the moment. The protagonist does not like the fact that he is still dependent on his parents for his college education, but the only job he has been able to find is that of a cashier at a convenience store. Tang’s elder sister is also way more settled in life, as she is about to get married soon, putting some more pressure on the younger sibling. His shy nature, for which he had been incessantly bullied throughout school and army training, does not help much either. But although Tang wants to get a decent-paying job at the moment, his main focus is to leave the country and settle somewhere like Canada or Australia.

One evening, while working at the store, Tang comes across two rude drunk men and is bewildered to find out, on that very night, that one of them has killed the other. As he confronts the murderer, the latter starts to bully him around, and something unusual happens inside Tang’s mind. Unlike never before, he lashes out against the injustice and fights back, killing the man with a heavy hammer in the process. The young man is obviously taken over by guilt and fear almost immediately, and Tang awaits his punishment, knowing well that the police will soon come to arrest him. But when the police detective, Jang Nan-gam, starts to investigate the case, he is unable to link Tang with it, despite having a hunch against him. Instead, the two men are found to have killed each other, and the real murder weapon—the hammer—is not found by the authorities.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of A Killer Paradox is the development of the protagonist’s character, as Tang goes through a change fairly early on in the plot. Right after the accidental murder, Tang is haunted by the memory of it, as he loses all sleep and peace of mind out of fear and guilt, both present in equal measure. There are multiple scenes in which the man imagines the dead body of his victim coming up to blame him for the horrible fate. Personal details about the man, like his elderly mother and three children, are imagined by Tang’s heated mind, which holds him responsible for the loss of livelihood for all these helpless people.

However, as the plot progresses, it is revealed that the victim was actually a vicious serial killer who was wanted by the police for quite a few years. With more such developments, Tang starts to believe that he has a supernatural ability to track down criminals who have evaded the law, and therefore, his killing them is like an indirect punishment meted out to them. Gradually, as Tang continues committing murders one after another, he is convinced that he is doing a service to the world by getting rid of criminals beyond the reach of the law. Soon, more like-minded characters further push the protagonist towards a life of crime and revenge, as he grows into a horrible vigilante.

The idea of whether murdering someone is wrong, irrespective of the context of such an act, remains central to A Killer Paradox throughout its eight episodes. Being a vigilante like Tang surely ensures that many who had wrongfully escaped punishment are being hurt and killed, but it has its own share of problems as well. Perhaps it does not take very long for a vigilante like this to turn away from twisted social responsibilities to getting rid of people merely because of personal or trifle matters. Interestingly, the series does a good job of bringing out this sentiment through the other characters and the direction that the plot eventually takes.

The performances and the overall making of the show leave no room for criticism, and they are appropriately effective. Choi Woo-Shik, of Train to Busan and Parasite fame, is convincing as the vigilante Lee Tang, while Son Suk-ku, who we have earlier seen in Netflix’s D.P., plays the gritty police detective Jang. Most of the central characters have also been given enough depth, making the plot enjoyable to follow. But the biggest complaint I had with A Killer Paradox was its length and the resulting complexity, some of which could have been shaved out to make the presentation even more thrilling. Although the narrative never really gets boring or wayward, it does lose its gleam at times, which a shorter duration could have avoided.

Action sequences make up quite a significant part of the show, including chase scenes and close-counter scuffles, and all of it has been done fairly well. Like most South Korean Netflix shows of recent times, this too has a big-budget coating over it, with eye-catching visuals and elaborate production detailing. A Killer Paradox is probably not the best thriller presentation in Netflix’s Southeast Asian collection, but it surely deserves a watch for the gripping storyline.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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