The Chaser is a directorial debut of Hong Jin Na made in 2008. This South Korean film inspired by real-life Korean serial killer. This film is quite interesting, had many great qualities about it and a great team effort deriving the thriller with its primary tension, also the multitude of grip of instants explains the bravura and the heights of crime genre cliché.
The story tells about Eom Joong-ho, a dishonest ex-detective turned pimp who is in financial trouble because two of his girls have gone missing. One night he sends Mi-jin, one of his few remaining girls, to a customer. But he later realizes that this is the same person who was the last to see his missing girls. Considering his instinct, Eom Joong believes that this man is reselling his women and goes to trace of the women Mi-Jin.
On the way he contacts his old police task force to ask for some help. But they cannot assist because the mayor of Seoul, whom they are guarding, has just been attacked with human feces during a walkabout. The police are now preoccupied with a media storm because they have suffered humiliation for failing to protect the mayor. The scene shifts to Mi, just after she waking up in a dingy bathroom. Her customer, Yeong-min, comes in with a bag of tools. He calmly informs her that a previous victim had her tongue cut out for screaming too much. He uses his hammer and tries to drive a chisel into her head. But she resists and Je Yeong-min hurts his hand, enraged, he hits her on the back of the head with the hammer. Moments later, callers from the local church arrive at the house inquiring about its owner, Mr. Park. Yeong-min has no time to finish off Mi, so he invites the elderly couple in and butchers them.
In search, Yeong Min spots the parking and soon collides with Eom Joong’s vehicle in an alley.Joong-ho senses that the man, Yeong-min, is hiding something because he will not give him his phone number so that they can sort out the insurance. Joong calls the customer’s cellphone, establishing this is the man he wants. Yeong min tries to run away but is caught and badly beaten by Joong. On returning to the collision, both men are arrested by a suspicious local cop. At the station, Yeong-min casually admits that he has killed up to nine people but hints that Mi could still be alive. A row starts when competing divisions all want to investigate the previous high-profile unsolved murders in the area. The chief arrives and throws the book at everyone because of Yeong min’s injuries. He is concerned that the beating will be picked up by the media following the night’s earlier mayoral incident.
Notwithstanding the confession, the cops do not find any physical evidence, thus makes them release Yeong min less than 12 hours of his arrest. In order to get some, Joong-ho goes to Mi-jin’s apartment to collect DNA samples to match against the blood found on the suspect’s clothing. In the apartment, he discovers Eun-ji, Mi’s daughter home alone. Grudgingly he takes her with him while he follows up a lead in Yeong-min’s home town. There he learns the suspect had been sent to prison for three years for attacking his own nephew. They return to the area where Mi-jin went missing. Following a lead, Joong finds a grungy room where Yeong-min had once been living. On the walls are a host of religious drawings. But while Joong-ho is away, Eun-ji wanders off, following a woman who looks like her mother.
Joong in his frantic search finds Eun-ji her in the street after she is hit down by a delivery driver on a moped. He takes her to hospital signing the form as her father. Here the police are running out of time as the prosecutor’s office order that Yeong-min released because the police find no evidence. Further the reopening of high-profile murder cases at a time could ridicule the department a public shame as media are desperate behind the police department in finding out their investigation. The prosecutor tells the police chief that the arrest, the suspect’s suspicious injuries and rapid confession will be portrayed as the police’s transparent attempt to save face and thus avoiding political fallout.
Yeong-min is released without any charges. The same time involves the arrest of Joong, making him a scape goat, because of chief’s order as the suspect, and injuring Yeong in the police station in the brief bout at the station. In spite of this, Joong attempts an escape out of police van to continue looking for Mi. in this interim, unknown to anyone, Mi escapes out of the walled garden from the house of Yeong min. In her bad state of injury, she finds help at a nearby corner shop. As Yeong-min approaches his house, he stops at the same shop to buy cigarettes. The shop keeper innocently tells him what has happened to Mi-jin and that there is a maniac loose. Taking a hammer, he kills the shop owner before killing and decapitating Mi-jin. Joong arrives shortly close to the store, and finds the street cordoned off by the police, in what seems like the store of bloodbath.
The characteristic situation is that the police realize that they have again been chastened, throw everything into the search for Yeong-min. Meanwhile Joong who is troubled at what has happened, follows up his detective’s hunch and visits the local church, a link between the house callers and the car that Yeong-min had been driving the night of the accident. Standing outside the church, Joong-ho notices that the statue of the crucified Jesus matches the drawings he had seen in the room. Inquiries with the deacon lead him to the sculpture “assistant” who was staying at Mr Park’s house.
Joong’s arrival discovers that the smartly clothed Yeong-min, carrying his bag of tools is about to depart. This leads to a massive fight ensues in which a fish tank containing Mi-jin’s head and body parts is smashed. Eventually Joong succeeds but just as he is about to bring a hammer down on Yeong’s skull, the police burst in and confine the former policeman. As Joong is pushed face down to the ground, he looks into the dead eyes of Mi-jin. Just then in the hospital room, we see Joong silently sitting and takes his hand in her own and the film ends here…
Different to the several of recent successful Asian films like Infernal Affairs, the director Hong-Jin refreshingly fuels his philosophical engine with montage. Like the very Fritz Lang’s M, this similarly reveals its villains predacious habits, torturous self-awareness and intensive oration, thus infusing the primary plot in the concealed ethics. This is sure high stake trepidation, as we see the killer into a deceitful Yong Min, played by the actor Ha Jung-woo and the ever nosey and loose braze Eom Joong-ho played by Kim Yoon-seok, the popular Korean star. Both these characters transcends the typical shortcoming of cat-and-mouse chase into irresistible rifle in the suburban landscape incisively splays the film’s brilliance from start to finish, thus taking us to masterful climax and remind us of how visually pensive the film can be. The triumph of ‘The Chaser’ lies in its grace and mettle of comprehensive knowing that the Murder can euphoric, revenge is cold blooded, albeit obligatory and decisive….
- Directed by Na Hong-jin
- Written by Na Hong-jin and Lee Shin-ho
- Cast: Kim Yoon-seok; Ha Jung-woo and Seo Young-hee
- Music by Kim Jun-seok
- Cinematography: Lee Seong-je
- Edited by Kim Seon-min
- Distributed by Showbox
- Release date: 14 February 2008
- Run time of 123 minutes
- Country: South Korea
- Language: Korean