The Chaser (2008)
Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 2 Average: 3.5/5]
Directed By: Na Hong-jin
Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Yoo-jung, Seo Young-hee
Till now I used to think that Hitchcockian movies were the reference point for a good thriller. But, The Chaser with its twists and turns was a wonderful surprise and thus broadens the list. This action thriller is inspired by Yoo Yung-chul, a serial killer famous in South Korea for killing 20 people. This Na Hong-jin directed murder thriller is designed as a chase sequence which comes with the realistic portrayal of the characters.
The best of the thrillers have the same pattern- they peel like an onion. Every scene reveals just enough to build some frustration and anticipation for the next scene. The anticipation evokes a guess and you fall into the vicious cycle of a guessing game. The Chaser starts when a customer picks up a prostitute and takes her to a house. The same customer picks up another and from then starts the vicious game of guessing. Just before the scene you know that a character will kill and when that happens there is a sense of satisfaction but like gambling you want to play more.
The strength of The Chaser is in its characters. On one hand we have a dishonest ex-detective turned pimp Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok). He is a pimp who is on a hunt for a mysterious caller because he thinks the caller is reselling his broads. He has a rapacious disposition and instructs his employee to entertain even if she calls in sick. On the other hand we have Je Yeong-min (Ha Jung-woo) who is a maniac in the purest form. One of the hallmarks of Korean cinema is that their villains don’t have shades of grey. Like Choi Min-sik in I saw the Devil, Je Yeong is also brutal, remorseless and a man without a conscience. The Chaser doesn’t give out a reason for the killings, he is a beast in a true sense.
Eom begins as a greedy bastard who gradually changes in the presence of Eun-ji (Kim Yoo-jung), Kim Mi-jin’s (Seo Young-hee) daughter. His guilt overcomes his greed as he was the one who forced Mi-jin to attend to the caller.
The Chaser is a realistic portrayal of situations, there are no extravagant action sequences or car chases. Just the extended chase sequences on foot which showcase the sleepy town of Mangwon. Na Hong has used violence sporadically but it is visceral and every such scene adds to the raw tension of the movie. He has removed all the sophistication- baring the blood and the bone. Also the scenes have deliberately been slowed to build up the horror with every blow. I believe that when Hollywood would remake it, it would mellow down the violence and that will take away the soul of the Chaser. The Indian version of a remake called Murder 2 being one such example.
Kim Yoon and Ha Jung have given an exceptional performance. Ha Jung is a calm psychopath who has the audacity to confess his crime at a police station and still escape out of it. He remains so calm during interrogation given the fact that he has left Kim Mi-jin in a dying state at the house. Both the actors were relatively new when the movie was made and The Chaser defined their respective careers. Kim Yoo-jung, the little sister of Korea also plays an important role.
The Chaser is a brilliant movie where screenplay creates situations to build up tension. And that tension remains throughout the movie. It grips you right from the start and engulfs you, totally. It is one movie which I don’t want Hollywood to remake ( Warner Bros have bought the rights). The violence is necessary and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Chaser is a landmark movie which has to be studied and discussed. Watch it and share your ratings above.