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South Korean Thriller Based on True Events

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A Taut, Thrilling South Korean Crime Thriller

  • Apr 14, 2009

Modern society have always spawned some ruthless serial killers and Asian countries such as South Korea is no different. "THE CHASER" (aka. Chugyeogja, 2008) is a film based on true events, and has won numerous awards in its native land. The film is a box-office success all over Asia, and it is no surprise that Warner brothers (U.S.) with Asian "remake king" Roy Lee had already bought the remake rights to the film. Directed by newcomer Hong-Jin Na, the film is part crime thriller and part psychological drama.

A cop turned pimp named Jung-Ho (Yun Seok Kim, the fantastic "Tazza the High-Rollers") is in a financial bind. He runs a door-to door masseuse company and he had lost a lot of money when some of his top call girls started running out on him after he had given them financial support--or so he believes. After a "client" rejects some of his other girls, he sends Mi-jin, who also has a daughter, (beauteous Seo Yeong-Hie) to attend to the needs of client # 4885. Being a former cop, Jung-Ho connects the dots and concludes that his girls started disappearing after meeting with this client; he assumes that he is a rival flesh trader and informs Mi-jin that she needs to text him upon arrival on # 4885's home. When Mi-jin herself fails to report and disappears, Jung-Ho is caught in a situation that he must find the truth about this client--named Young-Min Ji (Jung Woo-Ha); who for whatever reason confesses that he had killed 12 people to the police. But where is Mi-jin? Jung-Ho is becomes obsessed in making his own investigations.

The film unravels as a cat and mouse game, and rather than having it between the police and the killer, the game is played by two very unlikable characters. Jung-Ho is an antihero and Young-Min is a psychotic killer, that detail is revealed early on in the film. What makes the film enthralling is the fact that the script effectively takes its time and fleshes out the two main characters. The film focuses on the heart of the investigation by the police and Jung-Ho and the proceedings prove quite riveting. The film is based on a true event and I am certain that certain elements have been added to make it more exciting, but since the film is based on actual case files, I think it would be safe to assume that it is close to the real story.

"The Chaser" is full of effective twists and turns. The film is full of edge of your seat thrills, pulse-pounding action, immersive characters and there are also some touches of black humor to help the film's 2 hour running time. The incident occurred when the Seoul mayor had been assaulted by an angry mob in a local marketplace, so expect the cops being torn between political pressure and the sense of urgency to find the evidence. The police wants to get Young-Ji behind bars and Jung-Ho is on the race against time to find Mi-jin--dead or alive. Mi-jin's daughter also proves an effective plot element as you will root for Jung-Ho with just one look at this child.

The film has a finely-honed cast; Yun Seok Kim and Jung Woo-Ha does share dynamic chemistry even though they're hardly together in one scene. The killer is definitely your usual bad guy but what made his character compelling is how the film slowly unravels his motivations and the antagonist proves every bit as psychotic as other iconic serial murderers. Psychopaths have no knowledge of right or wrong, decent or indecent. Ji-Young Min is imbalanced and the viewer will know this from the start, what happens next is the film's main strength as it delves into his twisted mind.

Asian films are rather uninhibited when it comes to violence against women and this film displays a graphic amount of this element. The film does have its share of bloody and brutal scenes, the torture and mental anguish experienced by Mi-jin will be felt by the viewer. While we have definitely seen more graphic sequences especially in films by Takashi Miike, director Na came close, but he also exhibited some restraint in these scenes. Korean actress Seo Yeong-Hie does an outstanding job however limited her screen time may be. The film is quite terrifying and disturbing, and also very sad, the bleakness in its premise is portrayed throughout--but it also contains a certain warmth when you consider everything.

I have done my best to avoid giving spoilers except for giving some hints on the film's characters and what exactly you are in for. The film has an abundance of twists and turns, and you'll have to experience it to truly enjoy the film. Complemented by the awesome acting skills of the two leads, (most especially Yun-Seok Kim) and a very empathetic victim, the film is gripping. What I really liked about "The Chaser" is that it pulled no stops in displaying the ineptitude of the local police force and the arrogance of authority figures; the general public had been shortchanged as this film would portray. This incident had angered a lot of the Korean people and I am certain that you would feel the same way I did.

"The Chaser" is a riveting, entertaining experience and well worth the expensive price tag of the region-3 Korean release. The only fault I could find is that some may think it is overlong but its 2 hour run time will go by very quickly. You just have to see it before Hollywood remakes this film and becomes butchered by American filmmakers, Asian remakes very seldom works.


Note: There has been talk that the U.S. remake has Leonardo DiCaprio in mind--hopefully he'll play the killer? It is planned to begin production sometime late next year.

teaser poster scene- Trying to escape... scene scene scene

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September 02, 2012
Ah yes man, this is a good one.
August 17, 2011
I recently watched The Chaser and, afterwards, was struck by the number of things I disliked in the movie as being manipulative. That and the director's need to say, okay, I made a bloody, exploitive film…but dincha think my ending was meaningful? ------Anyone reading this, please note…I think discussing a film without discussing the things in a film one dislikes as well as likes regardless of secrets, plot points and surprises is impossible. So HONK HONK FLASH FLASH Spoilers ahead SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD You were warned FLASH FLASH HONK HONK!! ------I read your comments, Bill, with great interest, and agreed with much of what you said. I especially thought the main character was an intriguing protagonist. He was realistically grubby and not a man who you might take to. But he developed quickly into a guy I liked and even respected. The first 30 minutes or so, until Min-jin discovers what a mallet and a chisel can be used for, is an expert set up for the story. It gives us who the characters are, the milieu, a look at Seoul of wet alleys, small streets, stores and homes (boring, perhaps, for Koreans but fascinating to me) and the basis of the plot. And we make the acquaintance of a psycho who just gets better the more we see him. I felt I had come across an excellent blood drenched mystery/police procedural during the first hour or so of this two-hour movie. ------But then the director's need to bring things together by creating a conclusion of gratuitous death, no future, desolated feelings and, most importantly, no hope. The movie, after all, is not great drama or even melodrama. The Chaser is an audience-grabbing movie. A director who encourages us to identify with a brave young female with a nice kid, who puts her through terror, and builds our fear for her, who then has her murdered brutally…and who then lets us see her amazingly survive, then escape, a director who builds our hope that she will be saved at last, and then who murders her again in a skull-crunching series of hammer blows and spraying blood…well, this is foolish moviemaking. It's toying with the audience. It's also breaking the bonds of trust between the director and the audience for no good purpose. When Min-jin finally is killed, I felt only a great sour disrespect for the director for disrespecting me. He wasted my time and played with my emotions. ------And then we wind up with the gauzy close-ups of key characters, no dialogue, with the implication, as I saw it, that hope for everyone had died with Min-jin, including hope for her little girl. ------The whole side show of throwing crap on the mayor, including the last of the man, I thought was largely extraneous and a distraction. IAs sardonic political/police commentary, less would have been more. ------This also raises the question, how much slack do we cut for a movie made in a different culture than our own. My answer, very little. Blood baths, explicit torture, sex as clear as can be gotten away with are, for me, hard to defend, even if the movie were Korean, Japanese or American. I've watched a lot of movies over the years. I'd be hard pressed to name one in which close-up beatings and almost on-camera fellatio have added anything to the plot or to the characters. Exploitation is exploitation. In this case it was chisels and hammers applied briskly to skulls, with blood dripping from a satisfied face. Huh? Why do so many of us love it so?
December 26, 2009 have beaten me to another one! I concur with your rating...which I am coming to expect. Excellent Korean cinema. This one will kill the box office if your note about a remake is true. I am waiting for the second offering from this director (The Murderer) which is currently in post-production!
December 27, 2009
I pre-ordered the Murderer. I Hope it arrives real soon. I loved this film!
December 27, 2009
You will have to share your findings. I will at least check your rating once you have screened it. I am sure you will get to it first!
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William ()
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Original Title: Chugyeogja
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