Shim Deok-soo is the cranky old landlord of a low-rent apartment complex. Not exactly popular with the neighbors, Shim is nasty to tenants who are late paying rent, including the disabled, retired policeman Choe and a young girl named Ji-eun. When two oldsters in the town are found dead under mysterious circumstances, Deok-soo is chastened and decides to open up, if only a little, to Detective Choe and Ji-eun. He learns that the former is still unofficially investigating an unresolved 30-year old serial murder case. Soon, however, Choe himself turns up dead, and Ji-eun goes missing. Deok-soo becomes convinced that something sinister is afoot. The police of course ignore him, but he finds an unexpected ally in another retired detective Park Pyeong-dal, who dresses and behaves as if coming straight out of an ‘80s Kang Woo-suk action-comedy.
Yet another ‘quirky’ variant on the socially-conscious thriller subgenre initiated by Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder (2003), The Chase is based on a web comic series (‘webtoon’) by Jepigaru, a popular web comic artist who also adapted Yang Woo-suk’s story into the original Steel Rain comic. Compared to the film, Aridong Last Cowboy (2010) is a bit angrier at the Social Darwinist violence of contemporary Korean society. In the comic, Deok-soo comes off as a really old curmudgeon (quite unlike actor Baek Yoon-shik, who can still look like a dashing ladies’ man at the age 71) and his background includes a horrifying trauma he suffered during the Korean War. In general, the movie is brighter than its source, although some of the atrocities the villain commits are conceptually horrifying, borderline offensive.
Not surprisingly, The Chase is dominated by its two leads Baek and Sung Dong-il. Baek has always been a marvelous poker-faced actor peerless at revealing glimpses of vulnerability beneath his cool-dude demeanor. He always appears to be just slightly mocking the naïveté of the world his character inhabits. In addition to humanizing the misanthropic landlord character, Baek brings a subtle touch of droll, knowing humor to the role of Deok-soo. Sung Dong-il’s retired cop , on the other hand, is a much more broadly ‘comic’ character, beating up local punks, leering at female characters and affecting the deliberately uncouth air of a cop from a ‘70s American TV drama. His Pyeong-dal might rub some viewers the wrong way, especially considering the shocking plot revelation later in the film that radically changes the meaning of his previous behavior.
Pyeong-dal’s character arc is one misstep by screenwriter-director Kim Hong-sun, whose debut film Traffickers (2012) likewise features a radical plot twist that just skirts the edge of credibility. But otherwise he displays a sure hand in keeping the kettle boiling until the drawn-out (and admittedly funny) geriatric action sequence. A special mention must also be given to the always-reliable Chun Ho-jin’s contribution as a mild-mannered herbalist, No. 1 on Pyeong-dal’s list of suspicious locals. Another veteran Bae Jong-ok plays the survivor of an attack who holds the key to the criminal’s true identity, but she ultimately is little more than a plot device.
The Chase is a comic buddy film grafted onto a serial killer mystery, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I think director Kim handles its wild shifts in tone pretty well, although it is ultimately a rather conventional film, not as brazenly satirical (or in-your-face crazy) as, say, A Hard Day (2013). But it’s a pleasant and well-made diversion with some excellent performances from Baek and Chun; they are perhaps the best reasons for checking this one out.
After working as an assistant director on various TV dramas from 2006-2010, Kim Hong-sun made a splashy directorial debut with Traffickers, a tense thriller about an illegal organ trafficking operation. The film performed above expectations at the box office with 1.6 million admissions, and was a recipient of the Best New Director Award at the 2012 Blue Dragon Awards. His second feature The Con Artists was a high-profile heist movie starring Kim Woo-bin and released at the end of 2014, taking in a solid 2.6 million admissions. After production of his next feature Broker was postponed, he accepted an offer to direct The Chase, based on a popular web comic.
2012 – Traffickers
2014 – The Con Artists
2017 – The Chase