You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Chaser

"The Chaser" is a grisly serial-killer thriller that develops into a howl of outrage at the ineptitude of the system.

With: Kim Yoon-suk, Ha Jung-woo, Seo Young-hee, Kim You-jung, Jeong In-gi, Choi Jung-woo, Min Kyoung-jin, Park Hyo-ju, Koo Bon-woong.

Possessed of the same bloody fatalism that pulses through many a Korean crimer, and topped by Kim Yoon-suk’s star-making performance as a lowlife racing to save a woman’s life, “The Chaser” is a grisly serial-killer thriller that develops into a howl of outrage at the ineptitude of the system. Drawing both white-knuckle tension and moral anguish from a maddening succession of red herrings and wrong turns, Na Hong-jin’s overlong but accomplished debut feature has been a runaway hit at home, and should chase down plenty of offshore bookings before its eventual U.S. remake by Warner Bros.

As written by Na (with Hong Won-chan and Lee Shin-ho also receiving scripting credits), “The Chaser” is more interested in delivering pulp satisfactions than in launching a coherent attack on Korean political authority and law enforcement. Yet the real-world implications of this sweaty-palmed genre exercise — in which the police thwart the cause of justice at almost every turn, forcing a lowly pimp to play the hero — are unmistakable.

Jung-ho (Kim) used to be a detective himself before he started pimping, a line of work where casual brutality comes in handy more often than not. Annoyed that a number of his girls have vanished in recent weeks, Jung-ho sends one of his lovelier assets, single mom Mi-jin (Seo Young-hee), to service regular client Young-min (Ha Jung-woo) one night, only afterward deducing that the latter may be responsible for the girls’ disappearances.

Even still, Jung-ho doesn’t suspect murder. For auds, however, Young-min is outed as a total psycho pretty early on, in a squirm-inducing torture-chamber sequence that leaves Mi-jin grievously wounded. But before Young-min can finish the job, he’s called away outside (in one of the pic’s many instances of pitch-black comic distraction), only to run into Jung-ho, who beats him savagely before they’re both arrested.

At the police station, Young-min readily and surprisingly owns up to his gruesome crimes, and Jung-ho sets out to find Mi-jin. “The Chaser” is less whodunit than wheredunit, perversely withholding the location of Young-min’s home from everyone but the viewer, who gets to know Seoul’s Mangwon district quite intimately as Jung-ho, his bumbling sidekick Meathead (Koo Bon-woong) and other cops run around it in infuriating circles.

False leads, matter-of-fact police corruption, an embarrassing (if hilarious) PR emergency involving the mayor and simple human error all hinder Jung-ho’s mission; Na’s basic points about institutional incompetence, and his inquiry about the ethics of vigilante justice, has resonances with Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” and “Memories of Murder,” among other Korean chillers.

Fortunately, the helmer’s accusations never turn petulant; nor does he let us forget who put Mi-jin in harm’s way to begin with. One of the most impressive aspects of Kim’s commandingly energetic performance is his ability to give Jung-ho a conscience without soft-pedaling the pimp’s rough-around-the-edges venality. As his nemesis, Ha (also excellent in Gina Kim’s very different “Never Forever”) is chillingly blank.

Pulse-pounding third act expertly pushes the audience’s buttons, to excruciatingly ironic and ultimately devastating effect. Pic does turn overwrought in the final stretch and would have been wise to end on an earlier note, though action fans won’t mind.

Na directs with muscle and verve, more than fulfilling the genre’s gore requirements yet, more importantly, giving the violence an uncomfortable intimacy. Tech package is excellent, from Lee Sung-je’s agile widescreen lensing to the often grim interiors of Lee Min-bog’s production design.

The Chaser

South Korea

Production: A Showbox Entertainment (in South Korea)/Haut e Court (in France) release of a Big House/Vantage Holdings presentation, in association with Showbox/Medialex, ISU Venture Capital, Hanhwa Venture Capital, Hancomm, Michigan Venture Capital, Daishin Venture Capital, of a Bidangil Pictures production. (International sales: Finecut, Seoul.) Produced by Sujin Kim, Yon In-beom. Executive producers, Cheong Eui-seok, Kim Sun-yong, Jhung Seung-koo. Co-executive producers, Kim Woo-taek, Jhe Min-ho, Park Jae-su, Park Joon-tae, Cho Il-hyung, Kang Tak-young, Chin Hee-moon. Directed by Na Hong-jin. Screenplay, Na, Hong Won-chan, Lee Shin-ho.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Lee Sung-je; editor, Kim Sun-min; music, Kim Jun-seok, Choi Yong-rock; production designer, Lee Min-bog; sound (Dolby Digital), Kim Sin-yong; sound supervisor, Choi Tae-young; sound designers, Jo Ye-jin, Lee Dong-hwan; re-recording mixers, Choi Tae-young, Park Young-ki; visual effects supervisor, Cho Yong-seok; visual effects, MIX; martial arts director, Yoo Sang-seob; assistant director, Kim Kwon-tae. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), May 16, 2008. Running time: 124 MIN.

With: With: Kim Yoon-suk, Ha Jung-woo, Seo Young-hee, Kim You-jung, Jeong In-gi, Choi Jung-woo, Min Kyoung-jin, Park Hyo-ju, Koo Bon-woong.

More Film

  • 'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at

    'Self-Portrait With Boy' in Development at Topic Studios

    Topic Studios (“Leave No Trace”) has bought rights to Rachel Lyon’s debut novel “Self-Portrait With Boy” and plans to develop the project as a feature film. Lyon will adapt her own novel. John Lyons (“Boogie Nights”), who recently signed a first-look deal with Topic Studios, has come on board to produce. The story is set [...]

  • Ventana Sur Animation Panel Focuses On

    Ricardo Cortes Vera Talks Audience-Driven Content at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Ricardo Cortes Vera, commissioning editor for Señal Colombia, introduced the audience-driven children’s content his company is renowned for in hopes of encouraging a crowd of animators into submitting their own work to the channel. He did so in a keynote address given Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aires, at the Animation! strand [...]

  • Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin

    Berlin Film Festival: New Films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin, Denis Cote in Competition

    New films by Francois Ozon, Fatih Akin and Denis Cote are among the titles that will compete for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. German director Akin’s “Der Goldene Handschuh” (“The Golden Glove”) and French helmer Ozon’s “Grâce à dieu” (“By the Grace of God”) were announced by the Berlinale in its [...]

  • Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Film

    Picture Tree Sells Berlin Competition Title 'The Ground Beneath My Feet'

    Picture Tree Intl. is on board as the sales agent for “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Der Boden Unter Den Füssen), which the Berlin Film Festival revealed Thursday will be in its main competition section. The Austrian drama, directed by Marie Kreutzer, stars Valerie Pachner, Mavie Hörbiger and Pia Hierzegger. The film centers on high-powered [...]

  • Katherine Jerkovic on FiGa Films-Sold Debut

    Ventana Sur: Katherine Jerkovic On Personal References, Icebergs, and Whispered Truths

    Canada-born with roots in Uruguay, Croatia and Argentina, Katherine Jerkovic split her childhood between Belgium and Uruguay. At 18, she settled in Montreal and studied film at Concordia University. After a few shorts (“The Winter’s Keeper”) and some video-installations, she has finished her first feature, “Roads in February.” The film is a co-production between Nicolas [...]

  • 1844 Ent, Distrib Films To Release

    1844 Ent. Acquires North America on Alejandro Fadel’s ‘Murder Me, Monster’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — 1844 Entertainment, an emerging player on the U.S. distribution scene, has acquired North American rights to Argentine writer-director Alejandro Fadel’s “Muere monstruo muere” (“Murder Me, Monster”), sold by The Match Factory.      The deal was negotiated by 1844 Entertainment’s Tommaso Cerqueglini, The Match Factory’s Michael Weber and Thania Dimitrakopoulou.   As [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content