The Chaser is an unusually effective thriller from South Korea that fearlessly puts out all the pieces of its puzzle to paint an angry, scathing social attack. It is also rare in how it mounts its tension not so much on shocks and revelations but strictly on the pervading emotional drive of frustration. We even know who the prime suspect in question is from the very beginning and the suspense builds in its sadly, aggravatingly realistic portrait of the country’s police force that is often much more concerned with protecting its external image rather than properly upholding the law.
The actual titular protagonist himself is not exactly of the heroic kind either and even as an antihero, the emphasis would be far greater on the “anti.” He is Joong-ho (Yoon-seok Kim), an ex-cop now turned pimp who, by the way we see him treating his prostitutes, suggests that he was probably disgraced because he treated his suspects or even his fellow policemen just slightly worse. He is not even kind enough to grant one call girl, Mi-jin (Yeong-hie Seo), proper sick leave when she needs it (when a call comes from him on her cell phone goes, the caller ID reads, “Filth”).
Moreover, several of his call girls have lately gone missing. He initially merely assumes that they are running away in order to avoid paying their debts. But he soon tracks by a common cell phone number and finds that they actually all went missing after seeing the same client, the very same one that Mi-jin is going to as well. This leads him to the selfish conclusion that this guy may just be secretly selling his call girls away somewhere. Stop reading here if you wish to watch this film cold.
His police instincts soon start telling him otherwise and it is not revealing too much that the client, Young-min (Jung-woo Ha), is a serial killer, which the film clearly establishes at the 15 minute mark in a brutally harrowing scene where he attempts to strike her with a chisel but is interrupted by a phone call. Joong-ho even manages to catch up to him and beat him to a pulp, though they are both taken in when they are spotted by the police because Joong-ho is not a cop anymore. At the police station, the killer is not coy about revealing that he has killed the missing prostitutes as if goading and challenging the cops to find enough evidence on him (they don’t have a warrant on him yet).