|Chugyeogja 2008 South Korea The Chaser|
There's a fight scene early on where our protagonist, an ex-detective gone bad turned pimp, is beating the crap out of some guy he thinks has kidnapped and sold some of his girls. A long uphill foot chase precedes the brawl so both combatants are extremely winded when the fighting begins—punches don't land and there's a girly incompetence to the whole thing, which is to say, it's realistic. After finally landing a few punches that subdue his opponent momentarily, the pimp gets up and starts kicking him in disgust. He's very angry, still a bit winded and out of control. One of his kicks only grazes its target causing him to lose his balance and fall on his butt, and because of momentum he begins to roll and his feet fly up in the air. It seems funny, but it's not. You have to sneak in your chuckle as he gets up and continues kicking the guy. When he's finally pummeled his adversary into unconsciousness, he uses his foot to roll him onto his side so he can get to the wallet in his back pocket and ID him. He attempts to sit on him, not to keep him down, but because he's bone tired from all the fighting. He doesn't land squarely which causes the bad guy to shift a bit, and consequently he lands on his butt again. It seems funny but it's not.
After the fight scene both men are brought to the police station for questioning. Because the pimp is an ex-detective with a reputation, the cops initially sympathize with the other guy, thinking the pimp over-reacted—not to mention the causal fender-bender that brought the two men together in the first place. The pimp doesn't know that the other guy just took a hammer and chisel to the head of the girl he is trying to get back, he thinks she's just freshly been sold, making his sense of urgency misplaced, where it remains throughout most of the film. It's kind of awkward for the police to find much urgency in one pimp accusing another of stealing one of his girls. The bad guy insists he didn't sell the girl and then mumbles under his breathe "I killed her", and confesses in great detail how he killed her and several other girls. The pimp screams at the cops, "Can't you see he's just pretending to be crazy now?"
And so it goes. We know there's been killing going on and we know who's been doing it from very early on in the film but it manages to remain suspenseful throughout. The Chaser is a gripping thriller from the beginning until a few minutes from the end. The two main characters are portrayed with impeccable nuance. It's Yun-seok Kim's performance as the bewildered pimp that takes this film to great heights. There are so many things that don't go the way he wants them to, like people hanging up on him when he's talking to them on the phone, a little girl who startles him and asks too many smart questions, the cops can't do anything right; and every time, his subdued response of confused disbelief made me laugh. He brings a Kang-ho Song-ish melancholy humor to the film, (I can't think of an American actor to compare him to), while Jung-woo Ha as the impotent serial killer is so normal and unmoved it's creepy.
There are a handful of groan out loud plot moves in The Chaser, but so what. There are also more than a handful of plot moves this film doesn't do, moves that most people will be guessing it will do, that it more than makes up for it. This is a film I know I'll watch again just for the performance of it. The plot won't matter. It's that good.
Summary: Joong-ho is a dirty detective turned pimp in financial trouble as several of his girls have recently disappeared without clearing their debts. While trying to track them down, he finds a clue that the vanished girls were all called up by a same client whom one of his girls is meeting with right now.