Saturday, November 14, 2009

"The Chaser" (Language - Korean) (2008) - Movie Review

“The Chaser” is the second South Korean film and the common element of a psychological trauma is very close. The first one was the very disturbing but beautifully crafted “Old Boy” whose ending I doubted. In “The Chaser,” it is alive every minute of its screen time. It has some spectacular chase scenes and gripping human element. It is visceral when the sociopathic serial killer attacks his victims but also makes him a simple man. But more than that is how a corrupt and inefficient police system works.

The film does the unexpected thing in a film about serial killer. The inhumane man Mi-Jin Kim (Yeong-hie Seo) gets caught by the police in the beginning fifteen minutes of the film. This does not mean that the rest of the film goes back in flashbacks nor is a close interrogation to extract details out of the man to find out the dozens of bodies. The film has weird twist to this whole sick game of a maniac, the flawed system and the traces of humanity getting caught in the middle of this.

Joong-ho (Yun-seok Kim) is a merciless pimp. He commands and bullies his routine boy Meat Head to distribute fliers. He notices that he is losing his commodity. While they are becoming Mi-Jin’s victims, Joong-ho suspects of a competition selling them. And one night he sends out sick Min-ji (Seo Yeong-hee) to the killer and his former job of being a cop kicks in to see that the client is where all his girls disappeared. In the crooked streets of Mangwoon district, he is waiting to get a text from Min-ji who now is in the house where the bathroom seems to be the last thing she is ever going to see. In circle of events, Mi-Jin crashes the car right on Joong-ho. Joong-ho immediately realizes the man and he is still in pursuit of the man who is wrecking his business. Soon they are in police custody and as Mi-Jin is locked up and the department is trying to get through the corruption, bureaucracy and politics, Min-ji is bleeding in the bathroom of a faint hope to survive so that she can see her little daughter (Kim Yoo-jeong).

What a ride the film takes its audience through. All the people who directly and indirectly halt, assist or blunder in finding Min-ji becomes a coin. With nothing planned, Mi-Jin admits that he killed people and gets beaten around by Joong-ho to pulp. He is not methodical or clever. He acts on his nature of being the killer he is. He is incapable when Joong-ho initially chases and beats him for ruining his business and in later part in the police office but he knows what buttons to push when it comes to terrorizing a woman. There is a female detective and despite her strong willed and unrelenting face, he gets to her. The actor playing this brings on a charm and face value but behaves without putting forth over the top craziness.

The hard and unlikeable Joong-ho while does not worry about the life of Min-ji unwillingly takes her daughter for the investigation and begins to find his remote sense of empathy and guilt to find this little girl’s daughter. The film directed by debutant director Hong-jin Na is nothing short of thrilling. It attacks the helplessness the audience begin to meet and as the system goes to a dead stop, it aims for the worse.

I watched this film in a screening by the movie club out here which generally has a discussion after. Many of them dwelled into the reasoning of “Why” to the perplexed mind of this killer. And I think with several speculations, the reasoning per se for this film is insignificant. There are minds and souls in the wanderings of this world which most of us are fortunate not to see. They exists as they are and as much as of a reasoning we give to have a cookie before dinner, these people give a reason for their acts to themselves. Pure evil in my opinion exists in the human form and in every one. The failure to grip the sanity is where we achieve upon. Some slip and remorse and others like Mi-Jin do not. Sometimes accepting that fact is better than to investigate the reasoning because at that juncture, it is futile.

“The Chaser” is a dark and smartly edited film with acting at its pinnacle from the two main characters. There are beautiful scenes when we watch the innocent little daughter of Min-ji crying in the passenger seat of Joong-ho’s car as rain pours down and when the camera goes through the stoned streets and rounds up on its characters. There are terrifying scenes when Min-ji lies helplessly in the bathroom floor and when the sad gruesome ending happens. This film as similar to how I came to adore “Gone, Baby, Gone” is one of the best thrillers I have seen recently.

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