For this week’s edition, we’ve got another film from South Korea. Considering watching “The Chaser“. It’s an incredibly violent, gritty, and intense film about a former cop-turned pimp who tried to track down the killer of one of his prostitutes. Mark my words when I say it is VIOLENT. I’ve watched a lot of movies and some scenes in this had me turning away. But if you can stand it, the film is one of the finest crafted thrillers you will ever see. It’s no surprise that Warner Brothers has already picked the rights for an American remake with Leonardo DiCaprio possibly attached.
A movie like this requires a good villain. In this film, Ha Jeong-woo, plays a serial killer who personifies evil. He is cold, calculating, and incredibly brutal. By showing him in action from very early on, the movie allows us to hate him, fear him, and care about his victims. We want to see him get his due. Chasing him is a pimp, who was formerly a somewhat unstable cop. It’s not that we like him, so much as we dislike the bad guy and want to see him get caught. But our hero knows how to run an investigation and begins to conduct one himself when his girls start to disappear after they go to see a certain client. They meet face to face in a freak turn of events that involves the use of a cell phone to ascertain an identity. It leads to a foot chase through narrow alleys and eventually to one of those great moments which builds audience frustration because we know and the hero knows just what is going on, but the authorities can’t be convinced. Meanwhile, an innocent life is at stake and the clock is ticking.
The climax of the film epitomizes the thriller genre. It toys with our emotions, uses the information that we know, that characters don’t know, to tweak our anticipation, to force us to watch events unfold. It creates true suspense, because like Hitchcock said, we know there’s a bomb under the table and we’re just waiting for it go off. Again, this is a brutal film, on par with the darkness of “Se7en” but for fans of the genre, it’s incredibly rewarding.
*Alright, I decided that in addition to keeping track of beers, I’m going to share some movie recommendations. I’m lacking a cool name for the series, but for now I’ll just call it “What You Should Watch.” The idea is to share some ideas on gems you If you have any better ideas for a series title, shoot ’em my way and maybe I’ll take your recommendation. Anyway, the idea is to share with you some movies you might have missed that I think are worth seeing. They’ll be posted on Wednesdays, so it’ll be “Wednesday’s What You Should Watch” for now.
You should really watch the 2003 South Korean film “Memories of Murder.” It’s a smart and haunting police procedural about a small town police department in the 1980s that attempts solve a series of brutal killings. The only catch is, the department has no procedure to follow because they’ve never dealt with a serial killer before. It would be wrong to compare it to a film like “Silence of the Lambs” because there are no experts involved in this story, no secret informants who know all there is to know about the evil mind. The detectives are lost, under pressure, and ready to snap. If you liked “Zodiac” you would like this movie. It’s not about action and chases, but about the effect of not being able to come up with answers to incredible problems. For a Korean movie about the chase for a killer, it’s relatively light on violence compared to other thrillers coming from the same country.
The director, Bong Joon Ho, went on to direct the sci-fi smash “The Host” as well as another subtle murder story “Mother”. You may recognize one of the detectives Song Kang-ho from “The Host” as well as the films of Park Chan Wook. The film was the most watched film of 2003 in South Korea, but only grossed about $15,000 in the United States when it was shown in 2005. It’s worth using a Netflix DVD rental on, as the final scene (filmed in broad daylight) provides the perfect closure for a film with the title, “Memories of Murder.”