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'Chaser' gives reprieve to K-cinema

2008/02/21 Source

"The Chaser" (Chugyeokja), a Korean thriller directed by Na Hong-jin, has sold about 800,000 tickets in just five days since its Feb. 14 release, taking it to No. 2 in domestic box office charts behind Hollywood flick "Jumper".

But the chase seems to be already over. According to ticket website Max Movie, "The Chaser" topped ticket reservations as of Tuesday, taking a 41.3 percent share. That translates into an easy victory for the Korean film in the coming weekend.

The show-stealing box-office performance of "The Chaser" came as a surprise. After all, it is a small-budget film, and its main actors are low-profile compared with those in other Korean movies in recent months. And the lengthy running time of 123 minutes is not a factor associated with stronger ticket sales here.

Defying all its negative aspects, "The Chaser" is now emerging as a major hit film in the first quarter. Critics hail the movie's breathtaking pace; viewers have expressed their pleasant surprise about the film's sheer excitement.

Following the filmmaking traditions of well-made thrillers, "The Chaser" exhibits a tight plot, impressive acting and relentless speed.

Director Na has made two fine choices in setting up his film. First, he ignores the motivation of the murderer. Social conditions are not treated as an important driver; instead, a critical view is presented against the authorities, who have lost their role and function as protectors of the public. Second, the overall anger about the incident is expressed through Jung-ho, an ex-detective played by Kim Yun-seok ("Tazza: The High Rollers" - "Tazza: The High Rollers") in a very personal fashion.

Jung-ho is now a pimp, but he confronts a strange situation in which many of his girls are simply disappearing. He finds a clue about the case when he goes after another missing girl named Mi-jin and even comes across the murderer, Young-min (Ha Jung-woo). But the police do not care about Jung-ho's concern about Mi-jin, and everything begins to break down at a fast pace, sparking a wave of overwhelming emotions.

Meanwhile, the movie's production house, Bidangil, said it signed preliminary sales contract at the Berlin International Film Festival which ended on Feb. 17. After two screenings for buyers at the film market, "The Chaser" secured contracts for sales in France, Greece, and Hong Kong, as well as Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Bidangil said.

"French distributors competed to get the right for "The Chaser" and American distributors also showed strong interest in the movie itself and in remake rights", said Seo Young-ju, president of Fine Cut who is in charge of the movie's overseas sales.

The advance of "The Chaser" offers a reprieve to Korean cinema which has struggled to defend its position against the onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters. In recent months, many Korean films starring high-profile actors tanked at the box office, raising concerns about the overall competitiveness of the domestic film industry.

By Yang Sung-jin

Source : www.koreaherald.co.kr...

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