Is Seoul the new Hong Kong? Over the past 5 or 6 years, South Korean cinema has delivered an astonishing new wave of crime thrillers. Woo-Suk Kang’s Public Enemy, Joon-ho Bong’s Memories of Murder, and maybe most famously. Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Raw and visceral, these movies take edgy and gritty to a new level of nastiness, and have moved beyond their international cult status to become critically acclaimed award winners. (Oldboy and Chan-wook Park won the Grand Prix of the Jury and the Palme d’Or at Cannes).
This year add another new name and hot title to the list of Korean films making waves, with first-time director Hong-jin Na and The Chaser. In March it was announced that Warners Bros acquired the remake rights for The Chaser, with William Monohan set to write and produce, and Leo DiCaprio to star as the detective turned pimp who’s lost one of his girls. In case The Departed wasn’t corrupt enough for you. Why drag this old story up today? Well, aside from Superman in the soup for a reboot, and Bond moved back a week to give us more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, there’s not a lot else happening that’s newsworthy. Also, I get a chance to see the Chaser tonight, so I’ve been trawling around to see what I could dig up. Trailer after the cut (sorry, no subtitles) and another variation on the poster, each rough enough to use as sandpaper.
The very kinky website, Twitch has this to say today:
Like a vulture hovering over its prey with menacing subtlety, the darkly fostered rays of the night often become a creature of their own, enveloping man and his darkest instincts, dreams and fears in a doddering mist of charming ambiguity. Silence becomes noise, single steps become marauding hordes of invisible foes. It‚Äôs like opening, if for an ever so brief moment, the gates of a parallel world, where instincts replace logic, and it‚Äôs dark enough not to be embarrassed by one‚Äôs dreams, inner lights and demons. So elusive and nebulous is the night, so full of flair and passion expertly hidden by the dark. So romantic and fascinating it is, it populates the dreams of those who think at 24 frames per second, or measure their life by its page count. The Murnaus of the world, showing their cinematic teeth to the camera through the Grand Guignol, or Sam Spade and Harry Lime, Oh Dae-Soo and Park Du-Man.
When it comes to great thriller, horror or noir films, the night reigns supreme. And, ironically enough, it‚Äôs in the pitch black darkness of 2008 Chungmuro that the first sparks of a possible revival could be seen. Whether we‚Äôre dealing with the passing shock of a falling star, or the opening fireworks of a much more shining future, that is up to karma. What‚Äôs for sure is that Ï∂îÍ≤©Ïûê (The Chaser) is a raw, brutal fireball thrown at the Great Wall of Korean cinema‚Äôs new and increasingly unnerving IMF crisis. Can it tear down the whole thing and let the creative fluids flow through once again? That I don‚Äôt know, but oh mama. If this is the hell we‚Äôre getting, fire walk with me.
Had to put that on page two, since I’m jealous of how hellaciously well-written it is.
Hey, Ridley Scott, while you’re waiting around for the leaves to turn the perfect color for Nottingham, how about you sit down with your buddy Mr. Monahan and talk about The Chaser? It’s been way too long since your last drizzly noir.