The Chaser (Na Hong-jin,2008): South Korea

Reviewed by David Smith at the Arc Light Theater, AFI Film Festival, Hollywood

I would highly suggest seeing The Chaser due to its method of suspense and great cinematography.  The screenwriters (Na Hong-jin, Hong Won-chan, Shinho Lee) developed a plot and subplots to keep you in suspense throughout the film.  The cinematographer is Sung-je Lee.  The Chaser won six awards at the 45th Grand Bell Awards.

The Story starts out with an ex-cop named Joong-ho, who is in the prostitution business and stressing over his finances.  Things don’t seem to be working out that well for him, so his attitude is very bad from the beginning.   Due to his desperation, he sends out one of his best girls that is ill.  He tells the girl, Mi-jin, to text him with the address as soon as she gets in the house.  The house is very creepy and is tucked away on a hill.  Mi-Jin gets to the bathroom and finds there is no reception to text the address.  She frantically looks for a window.  She finds the window but is surprised to find it barricaded by a brick wall.  Then she then takes a better look around the bathroom and finds a scalp with bloody hair still attached.  The killer then opens the door and…thats all I’m going to reveal.

The mystery of this film how is how is the pimp (Joong-ho) going to find Mi-jin?  There is frequent use of cell phones, which serve as a metaphor for a breakdown in communication.  The pimp constantly tries to call Mi-jin to no avail.  Halfway through the movie, the pimp runs into the killer in a traffic accident.  The pimp did some research, for the first part of the movie, to try to pin point her location.  The accident happened in the area, and the driver has blood on his shirt, so the pimp’s intuition says that this might be the kidnapper.  He calls the number of the person to whom he sent Mi-jin, and the driver’s phone rings.  The chase is on.  Later in the film Mi-jin gets free and tries to call the pimp, but he doesn’t answer because he is in the heat of a chase.  Again and again there is a communication breakdown, which creates frustration and suspense.  The spectator knows more than all the characters throughout the film.

The cinematography and mise-en-scene work well together in this film.  There is a bathroom shot where Mi-jin is lying on the floor.  The camera is low and close.  The bathroom is dark and extremely dingy.  I felt like I was in there with them.  The setting is a busy Korean city, where I could definitely  believe it would be easy to make someone disappear.  The film starts off with a city shot and ends with a city shot.  I would recommend  seeing this film.

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