By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Most college students with a dash of film buffery will know Oldboy, and some of you might remember The Host. Both movies are a product of South Korea’s burgeoning film industry, which in particular does a good job of pumping out slick, professional thrillers with wicked twists.
For example, Oldboy is his own grandfather, I think
The Chaser is solidly in that camp. It tells the story of an ex-cop turned sad-sack pimp who starts having girls disappear on him. He suspects that a man is stealing them away with cash, but when a particular girl of his goes missing, the evidence points to something more sinister…
That plot sounds pretty generic, but it doesn’t go where you expect it will. The serial killer (of course it is a serial killer) is introduced, identified, and even apprehended fairly quickly. Constantly while watching I was wondering, “How could there possibly be an hour left of this?” This tack is perfect for generating suspense, and the central performances of Kim Yun-seok and Ha Jung-woo do a good job of heightening that by slowly revealing their motivations while still being entirely believable.
Of course a serial killer is a tighty-whitey kinda guy
The other highlight of the film is the fight choreography, which is slick and flashy while still being brutally realistic… which is not an easy thing to pull off. Ask, oh, pretty much every American shaky-cam action abomination since The Bourne Identity.
While the presentation is a bit different, you’ve seen this same basic setup before. The few twists at the beginning eventually fall back into what is at the end a fairly conventional dog/cat/mouse story arc. It’s certainly not bad, but it’s also not as special as it could have been.
The other unfortunate part of this movie is when it goes out of its way to tug at your heartstrings. The victim in peril is a hooker, but of course she has a heart of gold, and of course she has an adorable waif child. Pretty much every manipulation you can make with this setup is taken advantage of, up to and including the little girl ending up in the hospital when she, um… well, something happens and… actually you never really find out.
Just Deus Ex Machina’d right in that tiny jaw
It’s not nearly as good as it could have been, but it’s still pretty damn good. Mix up your crime thriller menu a bit and try it with a side of kimchi.