The Chaser

Director: Hong-jin Na (2008)
Starring: Yun-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Yeong-hie Seo
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Very rarely will you get a title as apt as The Chaser. After watching its increasingly bedraggled and put-upon protagonist hoof himself around the backstreets of Seoul, Korea, I felt like I'd ran a marathon myself. It's like watching an episode of 24, except not in real time and with an angry pimp instead of Jack Bauer. The aforementioned pimp is Jung-ho, and he's angry because his girls keep disappearing. He assumes that they've either quit or been sold. The reality is something far worse. One of Jung-ho's regulars is a serial killer, a fact he only finds out after he sends a girl round. The pressure is on for Jung-ho to rescue his Ho and dish out some pimp justice before it's too late. It's an exhausting movie, almost as much so for the viewer as it is Jung-ho.

It's more than just a simple cat-and-mouse thriller though, as there's plenty going on. The Chaser is as redemptive as Abel Ferrera's Bad Liutenant and as much a police procedural as a season of Dexter (although the ineptitude of Seoul's police force puts even Miami PD's collection of serial killers, nutjobs and sleazers to shame). It's really quite funny too, with a bleak, absurdist humour at play during some of the earlier to middle scenes. And it's plenty gory, featuring multiple and sustained beatings, bludgeonings and batterings. There's a Saw-esque torture toilet, a dog getting smacked with a spade and even a shitflinging or two. The movie more than makes up for its considerable running time by having things constantly happen, always adding another twist to the tale.

There's no denying that it does ramble on a bit though, and one character's suffering does seem a tad too much. Also, the final scenes are marred by dingy cinematography. There are a few too many times where the movie seems to borrow a little too much from a certain Oldboy, with its antiheroic lead character and use of a hammer as the killer's weapon. The Chaser is too good for such things, and really doesn't need the comparison. Still, such complaints are only nitpicks. This is a movie well worth Chasing down.

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