The Chaser (Chugyeogja) Directed by: Hong-jin Na Cast: Yun-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Yeong-hie Seo Running Time: 2 hrs Rating: Unrated (for adults)
32nd Portland International Film Festival Country: South Korea English?: No, but subtitled in English.
Plot: Police Detective turned pimp Joong-ho (Kim) runs low on ladies, so when a seedy client calls, he forces ailing Mi-jin to take the job. Unfortunately, this client happens to be a total whack-job. Joong-Ho goes off to catch the client and find Mi-jin and in the process has a really wild night.
Who’s It For? Adults who aren't squeamish. I'd recommend it to fans of other recent South Korean films like Oldboy and The Host.
Do you love tense thrillers, but just wish there was a little police farce thrown in? Do you like your heroes to be scumbags? Then The Chaser is designed for you! It starts as a tense serial killer film, Mi-jin goes to a client's home after an order from her pimp. Once he sends her, he realizes that this client, whoever he is, was the last person to hire out his missing hookers. So Joong-ho decides to run a sting, using himself and Mi-jin. At this point, you'll be shocked to hear that nothing goes as planned. But it's the way things go awry that make this such an interesting, and foreign, movie.
Kim's not a handsome actor, he's a guy with his cares etched into his face. Joong-ho's been around the block a few times and he's a pimp. So he's not a good guy. But Kim makes him a morally complex character. He sent Mi-jin in and he's determined to get her out, despite all the obstacles, and there are many. After an amazingly tense beginning, the film swerves to become a black comedy. The cops have the killer (Ha), in custody but can't make a case. No one can find where's he's been staying or where the bodies are. Meanwhile, Joong-ho finds Mi-jin's 7-year-old daughter, spurring him on even more desperately to find her mother. Soon we have two groups searching for the home of the killer. Tension mixes with comedy to create this weird sense of doom.
The Chaser is definitely a black comedy, but done in a very unusual way. I can't say that it always works, at times I felt let down by the stall in action. The police hurdles seemed to slow the pace. There's also a weird side plot about a man who throws poo at the Mayor of Seoul that's really out of place. But somehow the film still works. It moved and swerved and surprised me in a number of ways. Though I compared it to The Host and Oldboy, I can't say it's as good as either movie. But if you liked those, and have an interest in Asian cinema, you could do worse than watch The Chaser.
Final Score: 7/10