Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Chaser (2008)

Joong-ho (Yun-seok Kim) is a pimp, but he also happens to be an ex-detective. When yet another of his girls (Yeong-hie Seo) goes missing, despite his best attempts to keep her safe, Joong-ho gets on the trail before it gets too cold. He finds himself crossing paths with Young-min Jee (Jung-woo Ha) and soon realises that he is the man responsible for the loss of his girls. Joong-ho assumes that Young-min Jee has been selling the girls on, but it's a lot worse than that. Young-min Jee is a crazed killer and once he confesses to the police it becomes a race against time as Detective Lee (In-gi Jeong) and his colleagues try to get more evidence and build a case before having to release their man. Joong-ho, on the other hand, doesn't need to build a case. He just needs the police to give him enough time alone with Young-min to beat the truth out of him.

Directed by Hong-jin Na, who also co-wrote the script with Shinho Lee and Won-chan Hong, The Chaser is another film from South Korea that has already bagged itself a loyal fanbase. I saw it after it was highly recommended on a number of occasions, but I must admit that it just didn't work for me. With its mix of humour, grit, drama, ludicrousness, brutality and (fleeting) sweetness, it just didn't settle into one particular genre/style that I could really get into. I'm not saying that blending so many elements automatically makes for a lesser film - many fine movies have been appreciated so much BECAUSE they mix things up - but I don't think that the mix worked in this instance.

That's not to say that many of the individual elements don't succeed. The script blends all of the required information through some decent characterisations. The acting from Yun-seok Kim and Jung-woo Ha is great, as is the acting from Yeong-hie Seo, In-gi Jeong, Bon-woong Ko and young Yoo-Jeong Kim (playing the daughter of the missing woman). The tension does build in places due to the race against time to gather necessary evidence to make a case against a killer, but none of these things ever feel as if they're all blended together into one whole movie experience.

Definitely not a movie that I'd tell people to avoid, it's just one that I'd encourage you to approach with caution. You may end up being one of the many viewers who think of the film as yet another modern classic from South Korea, but you may not. As long as you don't get your hopes up too high I think you'll find a number of moments worth your time, at the very least.


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