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The Chaser/Yoga


None October 28th, 2010

It's purely by accident I watched 2008's "The Chaser" and 2009's "Yoga" in the same night. Both films come from our friends in Korea, but couldn't be more different. Other than begin new to DVD, the one thing they have in common is a reminder that subtitles need not be a barrier to Americans' enjoyment. Thanks to genres knowing no boundaries, the line between foreign and domestic films is forever being blurred.

A big award winner in its native land, "The Chaser" stands out because its protagonist is a pimp. Formerly a good-guy detective, Jung-Ho (Ha Jung-Woo) now spends his days scheduling escorts between desperate male callers and his rotating stable of young, willing women (even if they're down with flu-like symptoms).

That stable's been thinning of late, with a couple of girls disappearing completely. Once Jung-Ho realizes that they're not running away, but last visited the same client, he puts his old sleuthing skills back to use, and try to find his current girl before she's killed.

He's too late, and that's the mere starting point of a web of intrigue weaved by writer/director Na Hong-Jin and spun with not efficiency (the film is more than two hours), but effectiveness. Through subject matter and skill, this twisted crime drama starts reminding one of the gifted Michael Mann. Like his films, "The Chaser" isn't always easy to watch. To call this "the Korean 'Seven'" is a little off-base; this is far more realistic and has grit pushed under its nails.



But "Yoga" could be less realistic only if it were animated. From writer/director Yun Jae-Yeon, the ghost story concerns "” yes "” a haunted yoga studio, and really, what would you expect from the place? It looks like a dank, decrepit underground dungeon. Of course it's haunted!

Its lovely cast of already rail-thin women learns soon enough, as if the institute's creepy instructor of the frightness (not fitness) enterprise doesn't give them a clue, with all her weird rules and regulations. Soon enough, one limber participant finds her face covered in boils, another sees a table full of delicious food that's actually gone rotten, while yet another unfortunate soul gets tangled up in a killer shower curtain.

Think "The Grudge" goes to YWCA. It's not essential horror, but it's certainly amusing (not to mention easier than actual exercise). "”Rod Lott

 
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