Korean screen gem: 2008’s “The Chaser”

by Spencer Doar

Combine the aesthetic of “Oldboy” and the frustration and ineptitude of “Fargo” with “Seven’s” early introduction to a murderous culprit — now you have a pretty good idea of what makes 2008’s Korean serial killer thriller “The Chaser” (or “Chugyeogja”) so great. 

Plot: On the same night the Mayor of Seoul gets feces thrown at him by a protestor, a pimp/former police officer busies himself finding some of his employees who’ve recently gone missing.  (The feces incident is important since it serves as an ongoing foil to the serial killings and thematically helps point out the inherent flaws within law enforcement.)  After discovering all of his prostitutes visited the same client before disappearing, our angry scumbag protagonist begins his titular “chase.”  Though fans of “Bullitt” should look elsewhere, the chase scenes (of the running variety) are epic in their exhaustion and realism. 

What follows after the first clue is a cinematic experience brimming with distaste for the human condition.  Everyone is messed up, a combination of nature AND nurture gone wrong.  Our young, handsome serial killer’s consistent sliminess — alternatively whimpering punching bag, domineering sadist, evasive suspect and douchey pickup artist— makes your run-of-the-mill “CSI” culprit look cherubic by  comparison. 

In its basic form, “The Chaser” is a sinister comedy of errors. That’s an underlying truth that helps, not hinders, the almost unbearable tension woven throughout the film’s tapestry. 

4/4 – Teeth gritting, armrest squeezing, exasperating flick that necessitates cigarette breaks.