Saturday, February 23, 2008

Straight, No Chaser

I finally got around to seeing the surprise hit THE CHASER (추격자) today, and quite liked it. For a thriller about a serial killer, prostitutes and their pimp, it was surprisingly fresh and funny (not to mention tense and really gory). It is not as good as MEMORIES OF MURDER, but it is one the best Korean films I have seen in quite a while.

When I first saw the trailer, I scoffed pretty loudly. It looked like a hodgepodge of cliches and lurid voyeurism. The sort of lame crap we have seen 100 times before. Boy, was I wrong.

Na Hong-jin's THE CHASER is not your typical murder mystery, and does not follow the 3-act Hollywood structure at all. For one thing, the bad guy spends much of the film in police custody. He even confesses to his crimes, almost casually.

So where is the suspense? Don't worry, there is plenty to go around. Jung-ho (Kim Yun-seok) is strangely engrossing as the ex-cop pimp looking to find out what happened to his girls. The various people who cross the killer's path come to some grizzly demises. The police, of course, are little help, preferring to argue amongst themselves rather than do any police work.

The various chase scenes in the movie are well done, weaving throughout the alleys and narrow streets in a way that really draws you in. In a movie called THE CHASER, you really need to have good chasing scenes, and fortunately THE CHASER has several.

(One minor quibble, or potential quibble, but is that really Mangwon-dong we see in the movie? Much of the film is supposed to take place on a big hill in Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu. But I cannot think of any big, hilly neighborhood like that in Mangwon. Maybe such a place exists, but I have never seen it).

No comments: