When one of his girls goes missing former detective turned pimp Joong-ho sets out to find who is responsible and finds himself dragged into a nightmarish journey into the sort of Hell on earth that David Fincher gave us in "7even" as he discovers that the girl in question has fallen victim to the twisted machinations of serial killer Young Min-jee.
Young Min-jee has been murdering prostitutes across the city and burying them in the garden of another of his victims for many months. He is the sort of cocky, arrogant but childlike and innocent serial killer who could sit comfortably alongside Hannibal Lecter or John Doe. At times the sense of dread and evil whenever he is on screen is almost palpable. His targets bring to mind the myriad, real life serial killers both here in the UK and elsewhere who have selected prostitutes as easy victims and the lack of interest in the whereabouts of the girls in the film by pimps or police also echoes the attitude of society in general.
While there are many disturbing and shocking scenes (possibly none more so than when Min-jee is crudely attempting to use a chisel to murder a girl) "The Chaser" also reminded me of "Beat" Takeshis "Kikujiro" as both films feature adults unsure of how to "manage" a young child who they suddenly find themselves accompanying on a journey to find their mother. While "Kikujiro" is short on the dark elements of "The Chaser" both films manage to provoke laughter from the unsuitability of the substitute
"fathers" and their desperate attempts to cope with a child.
It is also clear that "The Chaser" has had an influence on the similarly brutal "Breathless" with both films featuring violent, unstable male leads who work in the underworld (in "Breathless" the lead is a debt collector) and who both bond with a younger female who offer the chance of redemption. Watching both films side by side also highlights a shared aesthetic from each director with shadows, cramped interiors and a focus on the seedier side of society.
There is an English language remake of "The Chaser" in the pipeline and one can only hope that it follows the example of "The Departed" (a remake of "Infernal Affairs") and stays true to the original films dark, violent and bloody vision.