The Chaser (2008) Directed by Hong-jin Na. With Yun-seok Kim, Jung-woo Ha and Yeong-hie Seo.
The Chaser, original title ‘Chugyeogja’ is an involving yet upsetting South Korean crime thriller and directorial debut for Hong-jin Na. The film centres on ‘Joon-ho’, an ex-detective turned pimp who begins his own investigation after his roster of prostitutes begin to mysteriously disappear. It quickly becomes evident to us, but not immediately to Joon, that his girls have been falling unfortunate victims to a psychopathic serial killer. What follows is not so much cat and mouse, but more mouse and cat and cat and mouse and mouse and cat and mouse. Na winds up the tension to almost unbearable levels, only to let you breathe again before once again putting you through the mincer. Such is the level of horror visited upon certain characters, that the film does become hard to look at.
Na’s film could be interpreted as being overly pessimistic, and it’s impossible to deny that it doesn’t weigh heavily afterwards but this story of innocence caught in a web of evil is all the more powerful for it’s ugliness. In the central role of Joon-ha, Yun-seok Kim is excellent. Initial introduction paints him as a conflicted but ultimately unsympathetic man, but as events unfold and his search for the missing girls becomes increasingly frantic and more personal, he’s hard not to feel warmth toward as responsibility and shame begin to catch up with him. In your average Hollywood thriller, there’s often a sense of being able to relax as genre conventions can tend to dictate a kind of predictable inevitability. Not so with The Chaser and be warned, it’s not going to let you off lightly. 3.5/5