Friday, 7 September 2012

Review - The Chaser (2008 - Dir. Hong-jin Na)

I've had to watch this a few times because I wasn't all that keen at the start, but I had a feeling it might grow on me. Luckily, I was right and my repeated viewings have been rewarded.

Sadly not about whisky, The Chaser is a jaunty little thriller. Joong-Ho (Yun-seok Kim) is an ex-detective. Now he's a pimp. An inspired choice there by his career advisor. His lovely ladies are going missing, he presumes sold, and he is trying to track them down. But soon he falls into the murky world of a serial killer. He finds the killer quickly. Now he has to find his last victim, Mi-jin Kim (Yeong-hie Seo) who is possibly still alive. Intriguing...

There is a rather large coincidence in The Chaser that put me off when I first watched it. Then I saw that it is based on a real-life story of a serial killer from Korea. Whether it all happened exactly like this is doubtable but tragic coincidences happen in real-life so it gave new meaning to the scene in the film, and made it more powerful.

There are some more powerful moments in the film. One of the deaths films is particularly brutal as the killer uses a hammer to bludgeon his victim. Blood spatters in glorious slow-motion and the scene is shot with excellent use of depth of field. Upsetting yet beautiful at the same time. The other moment, again shot in slow-motion, is of some premium quality believable acting of anguish from Yun-seok Kim. The music adds to the scene producing one of my favourite film moments in quite a while.

One of the things that felt strange to me was the inconsistent tone: on the one hand we have a serial killer who likes to hammer and chisel ladies' heads, on the other we have bumbling ineffectual cops who appear to have stumbled in from Police Story or worse still Police Academy 7. They fall asleep in their cars when they're on duty, they're not very good at keeping their prisoners locked up and they are more concerned about a poop-thrower than a serial killer. I'm still not entirely sure that the mixture of comedy and brutal prostitute killings works. I can't see it becoming a new sub-genre.

The film is gorgeously shot throughout with the lighting showing off the seedier, dirtier side of the locations. It's probably worth watching for that alone. Not a total triumph but  finding a half decent film in a 3 for £5 offer is always a treat. The rumour that it's going to be remade is probably an indication that it's better to watch the original version. Are there any remakes of World films that are better than the original? (Oh, and the trailer doesn't do it any justice.)

If you like this you could also try:
Lady Vengeance, Shuttle, Police Story.


  1. Hey!

    Nick from here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We're wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we're making similar to Sight & Sound's best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at

  2. Sounds interesting and a bit gritty too. I guess there are transferable skills from detective to pimp, but I'm just not sure what they are.

    1. Definitely gritty, especially the realistic fight scenes. You'd probably enjoy it. He uses his detective skills to deal with one over-enthusiastic pervert and to hunt down the person who is 'selling' his ladies. So yeah, for him the skills came in useful.

  3. Love how dark and twisted this one gets. Na's followup to this, The Yellow Sea, starring the same two guys but in opposite roles, is a pretty decent watch as well.

    1. I'll have to give that a try, sounds good.