Should I ever be surprised now when Korea delivers with another amazingly dark and heart pumping thriller movie? I think at this point I just accept that those Krazy Koreans know just how to do it right. Chan Wook-Park and the Revenge Trilogy, I Saw The Devil, and now The Chaser. I hadn’t heard much about this one, but now I will actively be on the lookout for Na Hong-jin after this one. In his debut film, we are
introduced to a sadistic killer and a former cop turned pimp and his desire to get back his employees. With a seedy feeling underneath the whole thing, this movie explores the shortcomings of the justice system in catching what’s right in front of them.
As I said before, Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) is an ex-cop turned more lucrative business owner of a ladies of the night agency. He has recently been sending his ladies to the same man and they don’t seem to be coming back to him. This troubles him (he is losing money, after all) and he starts actively seeking out this man stealing his livelihood. What he discovers is something far worse. Based on an actual serial killer in Seoul, Ha Jung-woo plays Je Yeong-hee, a young and aspiring serial killer being looked for for years. This game of cat and mouse just got more dangerous.
And what I liked about it were the stakes. Yeong-hee admits to the murders and the police find he’s a serial killer they’ve been looking for for a while. Eom Jonng-ho brings him in (well, he beats him in) and demands they arrest him and find his women. But there is a justice dilemma that favors Yeong-hee. There’s no evidence, and he was beaten severely, against fair and humane punishment laws. He was treated poorly and, without a warrant, they can’t hold him for very long. With a ridiculous police scramble for evidence, Eom Jonng-ho uses his police skills from way back when to find the conviction.
This movie is very twisted in the same way that it is a bit more refined and elegant. There’s not too many bloody dismemberment scenes or gory, blood spurting elements to it. It’s very brutal with the beatings and depravity of it, but it holds back on the reigns when it comes to showing things. It is more of a Streets of Seoul type of film than having to do with a slasher film. The police and “ex-police” call the shots and do all they can to uphold justice. It was an interesting change of pace.
A lot of the Korean actors in this film I wasn’t familiar with from other films. The daughter, Eun-ji was from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but that was about all I recognized. It was nice to see new faces that I can start to follow like I do with Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun, and Song Kang-ho. Those guys are really legitimate good thriller/action actors, and I’m glad their work is recognized, even over here.
What I don’t appreciate is the fact that U.S. movie makers in Hollywood think it’s cool to remake these movies in a more American way. They’re planning to remake The Chaser with Leo DiCaprio as the leading man. Martin Scorsese in the the talks for directing. It’s gonna be an Infernal Affairs/ The Departed situation all over again. The original Asian make was just fine, why go and jumble it up with a poor remake that attempts to improve on the one before? Is it that
Americans don’t wanna watch Asians and read subtitles or something. Come off it then…
But I loved this movie. It’s dark with all the right amounts of thriller/gory/horror/action/police work that you want in a psychological thriller like this. There’s some powerful acting and a chilling, “you gotta hate me” performance from Ha Jung-woo playing the serial killer. It has a good I Saw the Devil feel to it as well. Keep it coming, Korea, you gotta love all these dark Asian films. 8.9 out of 10.