The Chaser

Reviewed by: sukting

June 16, 2011

Rating: three

How long:
2 hours

Why was it the second-most grossed movie in 2008 with a cast that is not well-known? How was the serial killer found and jailed?

Story/Introduction on characters:
Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) is a greedy, ex-cop turned pimp who owes people lots of money as two of his girls have gone missing. He is dismissed by the force by taking bribes but that isn't enough to pay off his debts. That is why he takes up this new job. One night he sends Mi-jin (Seo Yeong-hee) to a customer. Mi-jin is unwell but still goes.

He has thought that Mi-jin has run away but dismisses the thought as he knows that she still needs to feed her daughter. But he later discovers he is the same person who is the last to see his missing girls. Believing that this man is reselling his women, he goes to look for Mi-jin who doesn't answer his calls too.

On the way he contacts his ex-colleagues for help. But they cannot assist because the Mayor of Seoul has just been attacked with human faeces during a walkabout. The police are now busy with the media as they are deemed incompetent. They even joke that Joong-ho must have scared the women away for being fierce.

Joong-ho starts to recall – true indeed. He has given some of them tough clients to handle. He even has to subdue a pervert who bashes up his girls badly. Even so, he still takes some money from them to pay off his debts leaving the rest barely enough for them. Is this why they go missing to hide from him?

Mi-jin wakes up tied in a dirty underground bathroom. She has discovered that something is wrong with her client but she can't escape. She can't contact Joong-ho as her handphone doesn't get signals as she is now underground. Her client, Je Yeong-min (Ha Jeong-woo) comes in with a bag of tools. He tells her that a previous victim had her tongue cut out for screaming too much. He wants to hammer into her head. She retaliates and he hurts his hand.

Soon, members from a church arrive at the house inquiring about its owner, Mr Park. Mr Park, the architect of the church has been missing for a week so they come to ask. They are puzzled to see Yeong-min as they know that Mr Park stays alone. Yeong-min has no time to kill Mi-jin so he invites the elderly couple in and kills them.

While looking for a place to dispose of their car, he collides with Joong-ho's car. Joong-ho senses that the man, Yeong-min, is hiding something because he will not give him his phone number for insurance claims. Joong-ho calls the customer's number and realises that this is the man he is looking for. Yeong-min tries to run away but is caught and badly beaten by Joong-ho.

Both men are arrested by other cops. At the station, Yeong-min admits he has killed nine people but hints Mi-jin can still be alive. Joong-ho insists that he must have sold his girls. The others realise that he might be the culprit of the previous high-profile unsolved murders in the area. The chief (Choi Jeong-woo) arrives and frowns because of Yeong-min's injuries. He is concerned this will be picked up by the media following the night's earlier mayor's incident.

Despite his confession, the police has no evidence so they cannot detain Yeong-min for longer than 12 hours. They go to the mountains with dogs but they can't find a thing. They have assumed that that is the best place to hide the bodies. Due to the rain, they speed up their search process. Feeling frustrated, they return but can't do anything to Yeong-min. 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 (Kim Yoo-jeong), Mi-jin's daughter, home alone. Reluctantly,he takes her with him while he goes to Yeong-min's home town. Yeong-min is completely cut off by his sister's family. He learns Yeong-min had been sent to prison for three years for attacking his own nephew. The boy is so badly beaten that he becomes retarded and can't control his bowels. He urinates on the spot upon seeing a fierce Joong-ho.

Joong-ho then realises how dangerous Mi-jin is as he himself is badly shaken. He comes to the police station to beat Yeong-min again. This time round, the police step out as they also agree that he should be taught a lesson. Still, this man doesn't say a thing so Joong-ho has to rely on his own.

He returns to the area where Mi-jin went missing. With Yeong-min's keys, he begins to search each house one by one. Joong-ho finds a place where Yeong-min has been living wit his ex-cell mate. On the walls are a list of religious drawings of the devils and angels. While Joong-ho is away, Eun-ji wanders off after following a woman that looks like her mother. She is knocked down by a car. Joong-ho takes her to a hospital. He signs the forms as her father. He promises in silence that he will find her mother back for her.

Meanwhile time runs out for the police. The prosecutor wants Yeong-min to be released because the police has no evidence. Secondly the reopening of high-profile murder cases at a time when the police have been publicly shamed will not be accepted by the media. The prosecutor tells the police chief that the arrest, the suspect's serious wounds and seemed forced confession will be portrayed as the police's reason to save face. To avoid the political fallout, Yeong-min is released without charge although the police is displeased. Yeong-min takes the police for a run by bringing them to the wrong spot where he lies about burying the victims.

The chief orders the arrest of Joong-ho as a scapegoat because he attacked the suspect. His ex-colleagues have no choice but to arrest him. Despite being taken, Joong-ho escapes to look for Mi-jin. Meanwhile, Mi-jin frees herself and escaped from the house and the walled garden that is full of human remains. Badly beaten but still having a clear mind, she goes to a provision shop owner. Yeong-min goes to buy some cigarettes. The shop keeper tells him about Mi-jin and stupidly hands him a chisel. Taking it, he kills the shop owner before killing Mi-jin. Coming late, Joong-ho finds the street closed off by the police and the store covered with blood all over the place. He sobs upon listening to his missed call by Mi-jin who pleads with him not to let her work again.

The police realises that they are humiliated again. This time, they desptach every man into the search for Yeong-min. Joong-ho, who is shaken at what has happened, visits the local church. This is the only link that he remembers to the car that Yeong-min has been driving the night of the accident. Standing outside the church, Joong-ho sees that the statue of the crucified Jesus matched the drawings he sees in the room.

Thus he asks the deacon. The deacon praises Yeong-min for being talented in completing the job as Mr Park's replacement when he is absent. Questions with the deacon lead him to come to Mr Park's house. He has intended to ask him questions. Joong-ho tries opening the door with the keys. To his surprise, it opens.

On arrival Joong-ho discovers that a now smartly-dressed Yeong-min, with his bag of tools, is just about to leave. He wants to start killing again. A fight starts which a fish tank containing Mi-jin's body parts is smashed. That also includes her eyes. (This scene is later reprised in ‘The Man From Nowhere'. I simply don't understand why they like the eyes.)
Joong-ho wins but just as he is about to bring a hammer down on Yeong-min's skull,the police burst in and stops him. His ex-colleagues do not want him to get jailed because of a jerk. As Joong-ho is pushed down to the ground, he looks into the dead eyes of Mi-jin. He sees images of her daughter.

The police digs the backyard and are astonished to find the bodies of the victims. Yeong-min has lured them to the same place to bury them all there. They have been looking for them for a long time. Joong-ho sits silently in the hospital room alongside Eun-ji's bed. He takes her hand in his own. He intends to take care of her from now on.

Interesting facts:
This movie is inspired by a real serial killer, Yoo Young-chul. He killed many women, sending terror to everyone's hearts and the women were not rest assured till he was caught.

List of the awards that it won:
2008 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival : Best Film, Best Actress (Seo Yeong-hee)
2008 Daejong Film Awards : Best Film, Best Director Best Actor Best Production
Best Cinematography,Popularity Award (Kim Yoon-seok)
2008 Blue Dragon Film Awards : Best Actor (Kim Yoon-seok)
2009 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival : Yubari Fantaland grand-prix
2009 Deauville Asian Film Festival : Best Action Asia Film
2009 Asian Film Awards : Best Editor

Yeong-min isn't just a killer – he is also a butcher. Lives aren't important to him but blood is. He loves the smell of blood and likes to torture his victims. He thinks of the most brutal ways to make them suffer. Even though he is badly beaten, he isn't feeling painful. This man is inhumane. Jeong-woo did a wonderful job as the serial killer but why isn't he getting any film award? This isn't doing any justice to him.

As for Kim Yoon-seok, although he acts well, I find his acting exaggerated at times. The way he takes matters into his own hands is scary indeed. As an ex-cop, Joong-ho loses his confidence in the system to leave the service. More so when Mi-jin is missing. He thinks that he can only rely on his own to save Mi-jin. But he is still too slow for her. The remorse that he shows is evident so he truly reflects his mistakes.

Yeong-hee was terrible in the drama 'Golden Era of Daughter in Law'. However, she has completely been transformed in here as a suffering call-girl. She is a single mother who is forsaken by her boyfriend. She lies to her daughter that he works in Brazil but she also knows that she can't lie for long. She tries hard to save up for their future, to the expense of her health.

However, this really pokes fun at the inability of the cops. Male or female, they just check on whatever information that is given to them and they hardly use their own brains. It is bad enough when they can't protect the mayor, what more the citizens? How can they let him go on the run? How are they so gullible to believe what he says? Why can't they depend on their own instincts like Joong-ho? How can they just frame a person when they can't answer to the public? Even as a fiction story, it shouldn't have come up with so many negative aspects to tarnish the image of the police force. A female cop tails Yeong-min all the way to the shop and yet can't stop the murder from taking place!

The drawings and killings remind me of ‘The Da Vinci Code'. Unlike the murderer who kills senselessly, Yeong-min plans his every move and covers all his tracks. He appears innocent but he is very cunning. The cops can't handle him but how can everyone be behaving like this? This certainly doesn't make sense.

If you wish to watch the movie, watch it in daytime. It is very creepy and scary. I watched it at night over local television and nearly had insomnia over the bloody scenes. Maybe age is catching up with me as I seldom watch violent movies these days. Guys might like it better as it is fast-paced.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : *** (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

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