Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Chaser (Korea 2008)

A battle of the wits, cat-and-mouse style Korean thriller, The Chaser (추적자), has it's moments of real suspense, but the relationship of it's characters seems underdeveloped thereby making the proceedings feel somewhat unwarranted. Above-average entertainment awaits.

Jung-ho (Kim Yoon-seok), is an ex-cop turned pimp who finds that his new career choice isn't without it's problems when his girls start to go missing. Determined to find out who or what is responsible for this mess, he begins to connect the dots by matching up the phone number with the corresponding nights when these girls seem to disappear. The problem is trying to figure out who's making the phone calls and requesting these women. Once the suspect calls in again for another woman, Jung-ho sends Min-jin to service his needs, but this time Jung-ho orchestrates a plan so that he can catch the caller. He instructs Min-jin to text him the caller's address upon arrival and that he'd be in there to handle business shortly thereafter. The problem is, the man responsible for these women disappearing has already planned ahead. Min-jin is now trapped in this house with Young-min (Ha Jeong-woo), the psychotic who's been kidnapping and murdering these call girls, and she has no way of contacting Jung-ho. Thanks to retaining some of his detective skills, Jung-ho eventually finds out that Young-min is the prime suspect, and Young-min actually confesses to his crimes almost immediately. However, when the police chief comes in to hear his story, Young-min stays quiet and acts as if he never admitted to anything at all. He knows that the police can only hold him for a certain amount of time without any evidence, so the police and Jung-ho are in a race against time to find Min-jin and possibly more bodies.

The Chaser is a really interesting movie in the way that it's story is told, because it doesn't take very long at all for Jung-ho and the police to catch Young-min. While I was watching it, I wondered where the story was heading because all of this was happening so fast. However, I soon realized the real intensity of the story happens when Young-min begins toying with the police and playing the oblivious card. It's a fairly unique method of story-telling, when you realize who the bad guy is instantly, and having him get caught right away, you wonder what's left to show. That's where The Chaser really shines. The suspense created by having this impending time constraint, with how long the police can hold Young-min and trying to find Min-jin during these few hours, is really intense. There are definitely some edge-of-your-seat moments to be found here as you follow the search for Min-jin. The problem is the incredible desire Jung-ho has in finding Min-jin, as if he has this strong emotionally connection with her. Don't get me wrong, I can understand him wanting to find her because they might share a bond or a strong relationship, but as a viewer I never really felt that and during the climax of the movie, Jung-ho's reactions seem a bit over-the-top. The use of Eun-ji (Kim Yoo-jeong) as Min-jin's daughter, as an attempt to connect Jung-ho to Min-jin, felt unrealistic to me, regardless of how cute the kid was. The character development with the protagonists just aren't that strong, but Ha Jeong-woo as Young-min is the star of the show. He has the frightening calm about him, where you truly wonder what he's thinking and what he'll do next. He can turn his emotions from zero to eleven at the drop of a dime. The ending is also a strong part of the film, because by the time I got there, I honestly didn't know what to expect, and what I saw was intense (there's that word again) to say the least.

Overall, The Chaser earns big points by presenting it's story in a somewhat original fashion. It's a suspense-thriller and it lives up to that genre definition. I would have loved some more character development, but other than that I would definitely recommend the film to anyone looking for a fun, nail-biting time at the movies. (Lee)

Grade: B


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