The Chaser is a masterfully directed South Korean thriller from filmmaker Na Hong-jin, who tipped his hat to Seven and other thoughtful and visceral detective procedurals, while still providing his own directorial stamp all over the proceedings, playfully skewering the expected tropes from this type of storytelling. This is one of the most startling and confident filmmaking debuts that I’ve seen, and serves as a reminder that some of the better films in recent memory are originating from all over the world, and not the tidy confines of traditional Hollywood storytelling. Released in 2008 and focusing on the cat and mouse game between an ex-cop-turned-pimp (Kim Yoon-seok) who uses his old police contacts to help to track down a serial killer who is seemingly targeting his stable of women. He narrows down his search to a prime suspect, played with casual lethality by Ha Jung-woo, and after various encounters, advances, and setbacks, has to decide just how far he’s willing to go to get his man.
This is a riveting film, unnervingly tense in many scenes, with two ferocious lead performances, and some absolutely insane bits of violent action that puts most movies to shame. Lee Sung-jae’s brilliant cinematography shows you just enough without ever getting overly grotesque, while the film is aided immensely by the tight editing from Kim Sun-min. The Chaser does all the things you least expect it to do, killing off characters you think for sure will live to see the end credits, and going to some brutal places both narratively and physically. The film was a massive box office hit in its native country, and will probably receive the unnecessary remake treatment by Hollywood any day now. The less you know about this twisty, twisted, and totally intense thriller the better. It knocked my socks off and then some.