Plot: Joong-ho (Yun-seok Kim), is a former dirty cop, turned pimp. When several of his girls go missing, he suspects they're being sold to the competition, and he uses one of his top escorts, a sickly single mom named Mi-Jin (Yeong-hie Seo), to trap the man he thinks has been stealing his merchandise. To his horror, he discovers that the psychotic john (Jung-woo Ha) has not been selling his escorts, but rather has been murdering them. After a frenzied chase, he manages to catch the killer, but after turning him into the police he discovers that Mi-Jin may still be alive- and that his only hope in saving her is to find the house where the victims are stored before the police are forced to turn the killer loose due to lack of evidence.
Review: Hell yes, now this is what I call a gem! THE CHASER is, without a doubt, the best movie I've seen at Fantasia this year (so far), and easily the best thriller I've seen in years. This film is so exciting that, at times, people in the audience were actually on their feet, screaming at the screen.
What makes THE CHASER different than most other thrillers is that the killer's identity is never a mystery. We know right from the start who's killing Joong-ho's escorts, and the killer is actually caught twenty minutes into the film. Rather, the thrills come from the fact that, despite their best efforts, the police may be forced by the mandates of bureaucracy to let this obviously guilty man go- and that the only hope for justice lays in the hands of a low-life pimp, who's not the least bit sympathetic for the early part of the film.
However, this soon changes, as it's revealed that Joong-ho, despite all of his bluster, is actually a much better man than he initially seems. Yun-seok Kim, a South Korean actor I've never seen before, turns in an amazing performance, that easily puts him in the top pantheon of anti-heroes, and is reminiscent of some of Chow Yun-Fat's earliest (and best) work. His low life pimp is one of the most three-dimensional characters I've seen in this type of film for quite some time. He really evolves over the course of the film from a disgusting, heartless pimp, into a bad-ass avenging angel, and his evolution never seems rushed, or unconvincing. Even the inevitable scenes where he befriends Mi-Jin's daughter are convincing, and never come off as maudlin.
Amazingly enough, this is actually director Hong-jin Na's first film, which is shocking as the craftsmanship behind the film is never anything short of masterful. I'm eagerly looking forward to his next film, although I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood comes knocking at some point (indeed, the team that turned INFERNAL AFFAIRS into THE DEPARTED have already snapped up the remake rights to the film).
Probably the best way to describe this film is to say it's like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, meets NARC, meets A BETTER TOMORROW, with a dash of AMERICAN PSYCHO, and a bit of PAPER MOON thrown in. It's a truly remarkable film, and my favorite of the year (so far).