The Chaser (추격자)
Directed by Na Hong-jin
Seeing as I appeared to be one of the few people who wasn’t totally blown away by “The Yellow Sea,” I felt it only right to give director Na Hong-jin another chance to justify the hype surrounding him by watching the film that made his name, “The Chaser.”
Joong-ho is a disgraced former cop-turned-pimp. His business is in trouble because his girls are going missing before they can repay their debts, and are apparently being sold by a rival pimp. Joong-ho manages to track the rough location of the person he thinks is responsible, and forces one of his workers, Mi-jin, to accept a call and relay her location so Joong-ho can find him. However, he gets himself more than he bargained for, as his rival, Yeong-min, is no pimp, but a sadistic serial killer who traps Mi-jin in his home. From the initial chance encounter between Joong-ho and Yeong-min to the very end of the film, “The Chaser” takes many twists and turns leading up to an emotional and violent finale.
“The Chaser” is one of the best films I have seen in a long time and I can’t believe I let it slip through the cracks. I don’t want to use a cliché, but the film really is a roller-coaster ride and puts you through every emotion possible. The plot is slick, and the twists and turns are paced to perfection, keeping you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what is to come next, which is one of the most climatic final thirds of a film I’ve seen. It’s just brilliant.
The two lead actors have a great chemistry, but it’s a strange film, as you never fully side with anyone. Our hero, or in this case, our anti-hero, is an unlikeable, rude, violent, foul-mouthed ex-cop who had the chance to protect Mi-jin, but instead chooses to put her in danger to save his business.
Ha Jung-woo is menacing as the villain and the contrast between his vulnerable portrayal of Gu-nam in “The Yellow Sea” and his violent and brutal Yeong-min shows real talent. To his credit, you are never quite sure if Yeong-min is a master criminal or simply insane.
It’s not without its flaws, of course. Certain scenes where the police are portrayed as inept buffoons and the way Joong-ho is allowed to escape seem a little implausible, but these little nitpicks are quickly forgotten as the film moves on.
You get the impression that if “The Chaser” weren’t Korean, it would have been a totally different film, more Hollywood-esque, which says a great deal about the modern sensibilities of Korean cinema and what its creators are trying to do. Na Hong-jin is a great storyteller and the future of Korean cinema looks to be safe in his hands.