The fucking Koreans symbolically kick Hollywood in their respective cinematic crime balls yet again with Chaser, a brutal thriller recently released on DVD. Why does the Nerd insist that every time a foreign country makes a good crime film that it is an affront to the American way of life? I don’t really know, that’s some shit I need to unpack on my own time, possibly with the help of a mental health professional, but regardless: America is losing the war for greatest exporter of crime films and drastic action must be taken toot-fucking-sweet! If the Koreans and the Aussies were ever to join forces with the Italians they’d take over the crime filmmaking world within weeks, mark my paranoid, barely-coherent words! But enough about the sad fucking state of American crime films – let’s get to what Hong-jin Na’s Chaser is about.
Seoul pimp and disgraced ex-detective Joong-ho (Yun-Seok Kim) is down on his luck when Chaser begins. Two of his best call girls have run out on him after he advanced them lots of money and business is down, his boss crawling up his ass about that shit. When a client rejects girl after girl they send his way, Joong-ho makes Mi-jin Kim come in to work on her day off. When Joong-ho realizes that the girls who deserted him were last booked with the picky client, he figures that they were either recruited by him or he sold them to someone else. He tells Mi-jin Kim to call him once she finds out where the client lives and then he’ll come in and beat some ass, but it turns out that the client is up to something more sinister than even a jaded asshole like Joong-ho could ever have imagined…
The Nerd doesn’t really want to say much more than that because a good deal of the fun in Chaser is tracking the peculiar structure of the plot. The film does that wonderful thing that always gives the Nerd a boner, where the story from a broad perspective is quite simple but the miscommunication between characters makes it seem quite complex. I will say that the film is brutally violent, surprisingly funny, and refreshingly off-beat.
The off-beat part of the new crop of South Korean filmmakers is something that often gets over-looked. Directors like Chan-wook Park (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Memories of Murder, Mother) are often praised for their dark visions and twisty, violent stories, but what is often forgotten is a weird sense of humor or…offness, I guess, that permeates their films. There’ll always be some weird tonal shift at some point in their films that either doesn’t translate purposefully (think of Brian De Palma’s work) or just plain doesn’t, you know, fucking translate to an American audience. Either way, I always find it fucking weird but fun in a bizarre way, and Chaser is no different. You think you’re watching a straight-up neo-noir and bam! there’s some fucking crazy-ass sentimental scene thrown in there or some comedic scene that is more off-putting than it is funny. Some viewers might find it annoying, but I think it’s special, something that sets the films apart from more traditional genre pictures.
Anyway, when the inevitable American remake treatment happens for Chaser, I can fucking guarantee you such eccentricities won’t survive the reimagining. Also probably not going to make it through the studio rewrites are the smarts or the brutality of the original, so catch this shit in subtitled form first, dear reader (Oh no! Reading on a screen! How different from my usual way of reading!). Yes, to enjoy this film is no doubt a rejection of our Western way of life, but enjoy you surely fucking will.