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THE CHASER (Chugyeogja) (Korea)

  Publicity Stills of "The Chaser"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Director: Na Hong-jin
Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Ha Jeong-woo, Seo Yeong-hee, Koo Bon-woong, Jeong In-gi
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: M18

Opening Day: 25 September 2008


Ex-detective pimp Jung-ho is angry because his girls keep disappearing without clearing their debts. One night, he gets a call from a customer and sends Mi-jin. But when Mi-jin meets the customer matches that of the calls the missing girls got last. As something smells fishy, he searches for her. During his search, Jung-ho dents a car in the alley. When Jung-ho spots blood splattered on the driver’s shirt, he sense the man, Young-min, is the suspect. After an intense pretense as a cop, they are both taken to the police station. At the station, he bluntly tells the policemen that he has killed the missing women, and the last girl, Mi-jin may still be alive. As the Police force is obsessed with a random search for corpses, Jung-ho is the only one who believes Mi-jin is still alive. With only 12 hours left to detain the serial killer without a warrant, Jung-ho’s hunt begins

Movie Review:

Let’s get the accolades out of the way first.

The directorial debut for young director Na Hong-Jin, racked up six awards (including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Production and Actor for Kim Yoon-Seok) recently in the 45th Daejong (Grand Bell) film festival (that’s the biggest event in the Korean film industry if you are not aware of). This mid budget sleeper hit has earned more than $20 million in it’s 20 days release and the director was of “The Chaser” was one of the candidates for the recent Camera d'Or (The Golden Camera Award). The “remakes” giant of the west (Hollywood) is already eyeing to do an American version with Leonardo DiCaprio in one of the starring role.

What made this serial killer flick so special from the rest of its kind?

Personally, it’s the dynamic of duality in the show that is so captivating. On one hand, it demonstrates the detective working of one that is not bounded by the law and another group that is being tied down by bureaucratic formalities. On the other hand, The Chaser took it’s time to strip the various characteristic layers of it’s two main character and shows the power shift between the serial killer, Young-min (Ha Jeong-woo) and the ex cop, Jung-ho (Kim Yoon Seok).

The Chaser was very direct with the police’s fumbling workings ethics and exemplifies it against the solo detective work of an ex cop. It shows how red tapes could mess up an obvious situation and how sometimes; it requires some unorthodox methods to get the job done. As the story progresses, it gets infuriating to see the good detective works that get ignored and the serial killer that mocking at the inefficient authorities who were more concern in covering their own backside than saving lives. It gets emotionally engaging as this sort of bureaucrat bullshit is easily relatable in our daily lives (ie unless you work in a politically free environment).

Beside the contrast between one man operation and a cluster of screw up, another highlight of the film was how it revealed the different characteristic aspect of the two leads. Jung-Ho, the ex cop turned pimp who was more concern about the monetary loss due to his missing prostitutes than their whereabouts, shows how even the filth scrums of society could be compassionate in the times of need. On the other hand, the serial killer, Young-min who was frighteningly indifferent to his acts of atrocities throughout, took an unexpected stumble during a questioning session. The charm here is that the movie never really revealed the rational behind the killing but gave enough hints to leave with a disturbing thought of what a twisted mind is capable of.

It was also intriguing to observe the power shift between these two characters. As the chase gets closer to an end, we get to see the ex cop who was in control of the situation becoming frantically worried, resorting to brutality to resolve the matter. Meanwhile the serial killer who get caught in the most uncharacteristic manner and seemly helpless in the locked up situation, actually had an ace under his sleeve to get out of the mess.

The duality of all the above elements and characters came crashing with each other, it will engage (and disgust) the audience to a climatic finale. It might not appeal to some as it takes quite some time to build the respective characters and events up. There is also certain degree of coincidence that some might find a bit hard to swallow. But in my books, The Chaser is well constructed and has fine performance from the main actors to the supporting cast that I believe will keep fans of serial killer movies on the edge of their seats.


The Chaser is loosely based on actual Korean serial killer, Yoo Young Cheo and if you are interested to read more about the account of those actual murders, click on the link below:

Movie Rating:

(Grittily well made – One of the finest serial killer movie from Korea)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


. Fate (2007)

. Voice of A Murderer (2007)

. Mad Detective (2007)

. Running Wild (2006)

. Typhoon (2006)

. A Bittersweet Life (2005)

. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

. Old Boy (2004)

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