Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: The Chaser (2008)

The Chaser (Review)
Na Hong-jin/Kim Yoon-seok/2008
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...dark, gritty, and daring as it enters some dark and surprising territory."

When his girls go missing, dishonest ex-detective turned sleazy pimp Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) begins to suspect they're being sold...

The Chaser follows Joong-ho as he tracks the man he suspects his abducting or selling his girls. After another one of his girls, Mi-jin, goes missing during his investigations, he runs into Je Yeong-min (Ha Jung-woo), Mi-jin's last customer, and he's apprehended. Without spoiling anything, we know Je Yeong-min is a serial killer from the beginning, the film doesn't try to hide it. Afterward, Yeong-min admits to several murders, but plays games with Joong-ho and the police. The rest of the film, which I'll avoid spoiling, is a wild chase with twists and turns at every corner as Joong-ho and the police try to uncover Yeong-min's sinister secrets. The ending, in fact I'd say most of the final act, is brutal; it breaks through typical Hollywood conventions, and it might anger some audiences.

The Chaser is a superb investigative thriller. The Chaser is dark, gritty, and daring as it enters some dark and surprising territory. On the surface, the film looks and feels like a movie straight out of Hollywood; but, I would argue it's a film straight out of old-school Hollywood -- when Hollywood was much more daring and experimental. You see, the style, the story, and the production values scream Hollywood, but the twists, the turns, and the ending (and more) scream South Korea -- it's the perfect blend. The film is filled with suspense and thrills, pumped full of adrenaline during its literal and figurative chases. The investigation is also interesting and engaging. The pacing is also ferocious, moving at the speed of light to its devastating ending. There's always something going on in this film, and that's great.

I think this is Kim Yoon-seok's best performance, he's fantastic as the lead. Ha Jung-woo, who also stars in films like The Terror Live and Nameless Gangster, delivers another superb performance -- the performance you love to hate thanks to the brilliant acting that amplifies the sinister character. Otherwise, the acting is all-in-all great. The music doesn't have a strong presence, but it's ominous and well-fitted when it does play. The cinematography captures the dark, gritty atmosphere well, and the camerawork keeps up with the thrilling chases. This is director's Na Hong-jin debut, and he does very well in crafting the thrills and delivering some strong punches; some of it does feel over-edited, but it's not persistent enough to really be detrimental.

Overall, The Chaser is a superb thriller. Although it shares a few similarities with Hollywood, The Chaser still manages to be one of the best films from South Korea. It's a fantastic blend of investigation and chase. I've seen it multiple times, and I still love it. Fans of films that enter taboo territory and break typical conventions will find The Chaser worth chasing after.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some gore, and some sexuality.

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