The Chaser

"Very Good"

The Chaser Review


Already slated for a Warner Bros. remake scripted by The Departed scribe William Monahan, Na Hong-jin's forceful debut The Chaser continues South Korea's recent trend of cliché-obliterating genre hybrids, walking in similar footsteps as Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder and Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

Thinking that two of his girls have been sold, lowly pimp and one-time detective Joong-ho (Kim Yun-seok in a pulverizing turn) dangles Ma-jin (Seo Yong-hie), one of his remaining girls, as bait for the man he suspects of selling them off. As it turns out, the women are being tortured and bludgeoned to death by boyish serial killer Young-min (Ha Jung-woo). By chance, the killer runs into Joong-ho's car while fleeing his horror-show abode, the blood of his victim still on him. After a chase through his neighborhood, the killer is caught and, upon arrival at the police station, almost immediately confesses.

That only covers the first 30 minutes of this (overlong) two-hour crime dazzler. As Joon-ho's The Host was more about the family tracking the beast than about the monster itself, The Chaser ironically has more interest in procedure and police ineptitude than it does with the chase. After his arrest, Young-min acts casual about his murder of 12 or so people, admitting what he did but offering no proof. Given only 12 hours to prove that Young-min is guilty before the prosecutor frees him, the entire police squad gets in on the hunt. The police get caught in the muck of departmental bureaucracy, laziness and stupidity, as Joong-ho goes rampaging through the streets with Ma-jin's daughter and his incompetent assistant at his side.

Shot by newcomer Lee Sung-ja, this mutated procedural shifts its tone effortlessly between white-knuckle suspense and investigatory drama, with dollops of comedy and horror throughout. What is striking is how Hong-jin also creates a consistently gloomy mood. There are pangs of eerie discomfort, such as when Young-jin tries to flirt with a female inspector (Park Hyo-ju) by telling her that he can smell that she's on her period. The director, along with co-writers Hong Won-Chang and Lee Shinho, also plays with some excellent gallows humor: On the run from the cops, the young killer is asked to defend an elderly shopkeeper's store with a hammer.

As the film enters its third quarter, some of its detours begin to feel more habitual than methodical, especially one involving Ma-jin's daughter running away. There's also a bit of nonsense involving the mayor of Seoul getting hit with a handful of poo. The belt could use some tightening. Nonetheless, the director proves a deft weaver of nuance and emotional trajectory: There's a genuine moment of horror when Joong-ho realizes that his women were really murdered, not just sold-off.

Since he handled Infernal Affairs' adaptation so well, one has hope that Monahan, who also provided the smart script for Body of Lies, will not change the film's hulking ferocity and will rather tighten its more meandering dramatic detours. That is if the remake ever sees the light of day.

Aka Chugyeogja.

She now has seven days to live.



The Chaser

Facts and Figures

Run time: 125 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 14th February 2008

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: Harry Langdon Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Na Hong-jin

Producer: Choi Moon-su

Starring: Harry Langdon as The Husband, Gladys McConnell as The Wife, Helen Hayward as The Wife's Mother, Bud Jamison as The Husband's Buddy, Charles Thurston as The Judge

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