to work.... or you'll regret it"
Jung-ho is an ex-cop, turned pimp, who runs a
prostitution business. Recently two of the girls working for him
have disappeared and he is convinced that they've been kidnapped and
sold. His income affected by this, he forces Mi-jin (another of his
girls) to go to service a client despite being unwell, only to
realise after she's gone that the phone number of the client is the
same number used to book each of the other girls prior to their
disappearance. The race is on to find the man, before he sells
Since "The Chaser" is marketed as a
serial killer movie it's pretty obvious that the girls haven't been
sold but in fact killed - information that Jung-ho only becomes
aware of after finding the guy in question, beating him up and being
dragged with him to the police station, and even though the suspect
admits to killing the girls, the police will be forced to release him
in twelve hours if no hard evidence is found. The cops believe that
Mi-jin is already dead and that they need to prevent any further
killings but she's actually still alive, injured and tied up in the
guy's 'playroom', so the race is, in reality, to find her before the
killer is set free to finish the job.
Even though the idea of an off the rails ex-good
guy slogging it out against an evil killer is not by any means new,
The Chaser manages to supplant expectations and viewer predictions
on several occasions.
For the first half of the film the tension is
built in a similar way to films such as Oldboy, and succeeds in
continually building momentum that grips like a vice. Some of that
momentum is sadly lost when the police become a part of the story
and, although the investigation surrounding the killer has a feeling
to it which is akin to Memories Of Murder, the stupidity of the
detectives is rather overplayed in this instance. The detectives in
Memories Of Murder were exquisitely written characters and the fact
that they were, apart from one detective, from a tiny town, and had
no experience in dealing with serial killers, meant that they could
be portrayed with a healthy dose of black humour present. However,
the police in The Chaser are situated in Seoul, the biggest city in
the country, and their lack of intelligence borders on
Thankfully in the last third of the film the
previously lost momentum is regained and, with an incredibly brutal
twist, the film redeems itself. As stated earlier, Memories Of Murder
and Oldboy were obvious influences here - to the extent that if those
two movies had an illegitimate love child, The Chaser would be it.
But, as any child strives to be different from his/her parents, The
Chaser sparks with enough originality to stand on its own merits, and really the only specific plot point that rings a bit of an alarm bell is why the killer would
be stupid enough to use the same cell phone to book each of the
girls he was going to kill, both several times from Jung-ho and also from other massge parlours - but it could be said that I'm nit-picking here.
The characters in The Chaser are all relatively well
drawn but none of them stick in the mind the way those in Oldboy and
Memories of Murder do, simply because the story is not as original.
The cast perform admirably, with the two male leads succeeding in
making it appear that blood was actually drawn in the fight scenes.
Seo Yeong-hie (playing Mi-jin) comes across as suitably terrified
and Mi-jin's young daughter, unlike standard young child characters
in Western movies (tending to be two dimensional tear inducers),
provides both intelligent light relief to the tension and a major
dramatic arc later in the story.
The serial killer genre has been awash, certainly
in Western cultures, with predictable, thinly plotted movies, used
simply as an excuse for excessive gore, but a lot of South Korean
film-makers seem to be able to use genres to take movies to
unexpected places, with a depth not often seen elsewhere.
makes a valiant attempt at this type of depth and, for the most part,
Any fan of South Korean thrillers will find much
to recommend, despite the previous reservations.
The DVD edition reviewed here is the
UK (Region 2) Metrodome release. Metrodome have done a great job
with the dvd release providing a crisp print with quality sound. The
extras are all interesting and informative and this release shows
how much further distribution companies will now go to provide a
worthwhile package, much more so than would have been the case a few years ago and
thanks, in part, to the quality of releases from distributors such as
Tartan Palisades and Optimum Releasing.
Actors ... Characters Played:
Yun-seok... Joong-ho Eom
Ha Jung-woo... Young-min Jee
Yeong-hie... Mi-jin Kim
Jung In-gi... Detective Lee
Hyo-ju... Detective Oh
Director: Na Hong-jin
Region: Region 2
Ratio: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Number of discs: 1
Run Time: 132 minutes
Cast & Crew Interviews, Behind The Scenes/Making of
o Languages: Korean (original soundtrack) Dolby 2.0,
o Subtitles: English