Mar 11, 2009

The Chaser

This later imagining of the Korean thriller had been optioned for a remake and hadn't even been released. For all the venomous insults being directed at the Hollywood machine, you got to respect productivity while its in plain view and this is just that circumstance. As normal, the "generic" thriller is taken from a foreign vantage and crafted into something enjoyable fresh. The Chaser is a film that lives by its name and spotlights many chase scenes through the misty and thin streets of a darkly lit Seoul during its annual rainy season and if you know one thing about Korean cinema, it's that rain has never been captured as the mystic force that it is outside of the Korean medium of cinematography that is also known as the film core in their native land.

Now to creep past the introductory paragraph without the illusion of me adoring this film for its flaws, know that most Korean thrillers re reinventions of a reinvention so the blessing is fading fast. In order to explain the elements that do make this film, I'll need to set the scene. In A-typical Western format, we meet an ex-cop turned pimp who lacks a certain trait known as humanity. After pining over lost prostitutes that were "sold" to other pimps, he sends a sick mother to please a man known only to him by the last digits of his phone number - "4885." Soon thereafter, Jung-ho ascertains to the possibility that this creepy man was the one who auctioned his girls so after a rigorous and highly edited phone comparison montage, he makes the shocking discovery that this man is in fact the last person to see his missing girls. Oblivious to the cold truth, he doesn't even ponder the idea of murder so as to is surprise, Mi-jin has been kidnapped and stored in a basement slowly dying while a cat-and-mouse game is being divided by three parties.

Incompetence is a normal and noticeable trait in all detective movies. But for one to exceed formalities and slope into blatant incidentals against police inefficiency is another thing that is perfectly paraded by The Chaser. In an attack on subjective sensationalism, two events are juxtaposed by the media within the world of The Chaser; a crazy individual throwing feces at the mayor's face and the capture of a serial killer. Guess which one gets proper coverage and the best of peoples sensibilities. Don't worry, I couldn't believe it either. The outrage is placed into high priority and you find yourself soon scowling at both man's flaws and the basic outline of the human condition. No character is written free from vice, mistakes, and grisly flaws.

Speaking of grisly, that's about one of few words that can properly sum out the quota of suspense/violence. In light of recent action scenes, I've discovered that a vast majority of Korean combat scenes of fairly life-like to the actual homicidal counterpart in humanity. The swift punches are fierce and awkward but still packed with a vehement compassion for the ideals of being. During the course of several weeks, I've been exposed to film after film proudly giving emphasis to pathetic male characters that are at the top of the story's hierarchy of figures; prominently Wakamatsu's The Embryo Hunts in Secret and this, The Chaser. To even begin expressing the details of Jung-ho's descent into self-emasculation would spoil many touching surprises. For being blended post-Se7en material, the prize still tastes genuinely fresh.

Upon second-guessing the motives of such directors depicting harmful stories, I realized that these harmful stories are all apart of harmless film making. These are films, Korean that is, that are made with style over substance but you will, at times, appreciate plot aesthetics as well as savoring the set theme and gristle of a Hollywood film. The Chaser has won many awards and is being led through several festival circuits but seems out of place with the artistic crop. Paired with Truck, a recent Korean graduating of Western ideals, The Chaser is the kind of film a family could appreciate for hostile ethics and foreign do-good. Expect nothing three dimensional other than the fallibility of law enforcement and an odious approach to misogyny and impotence. The most terrifying side-effect of The Chaser is that Yeong-Min makes me think of prostitutes as a lesser species without an earnest attempt as fleshed as it is in contemporary suspense. His stoic demeanor truly is disquieting. The femme fatale is unofficially dead.


1 comment:

Phantom of Pulp said...

You've struck the right nerve with this review, SS. I like this film a lot, and you've done it justice. Interesting take on Korean masculinity, too. "The Isle" is a good case in point, too.