By size, South Korea is smaller than the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu (100,000 sq km vs 130,000 sq km).
In terms of population, Tamil Nadu has 72-million people versus 49 million for South Korea.
The Tamil film industry and its larger Bollywood sibling make scores of films every year, most of them unwatchable horror-shows like Ready, Avan Ivan, Kuruvi, Villu and other trash of their ilk.
South Korean film-makers put out a fraction of the movies made by Indians.
Yet the South Korean film industry has made significant strides on the world stage, winning awards, getting respect and recognition from movie-buffs around the world.
At the same time, 99% of Indian movies continue to remain the dregs, the laughing stock of moviegoers outside of South Asia and the diaspora.
Of course, crooked Indian film-makers are not unaware of the high quality of Korean movies.
So, Indians do what Indians do best – They steal unabashedly.
Bollywood mongrels stole the South Korean cult movie Oldboy and turned it into Zinda. There’s another Korean film that’s been filched by Indian film-makers but we can’t remember the title now.
Our introduction to South Korean cinema came fairly recently, thanks to the cornucopia at Netflix.
Having watched a bunch of them, we’re on a Korean high.
A couple of weeks back, we watched I Saw the Devil to much delight. Before that it was The Good, the Bad and the Weird that charmed us.
One of the interesting aspects of Korean films is the dexterous use of lighting to make for stunning visual appeal.
Although cinema is obviously a visual medium, most Indian directors have lost sight of that simple fact, bedazzled and captive as they are to the high-profile stars who have laid waste to Indian cinema.
Some of the South Korean films have special lighting directors whose names are highlighted in the credits. Instead of importing stuntsmen and special effects folks from the West, Indian cinema would be greatly enriched by learning from the lighting specialists of South Korea.
The positive experience from our Korean sojourns only served to whet our appetite for more.
So, over the last couple of days we watched two more Korean films: The Chaser and The Man from Nowhere.
We stumbled upon The Chaser as we were scrolling through the foreign movies section of Netflix Instant Play.
Directed by Na Hong-jin, The Chaser (2008) features Kim Yoon-seok as a pimp and Ha Jeong-woo as the sadistic serial killer.
Fine Crime Thriller
Voila, again we hit pay-dirt.
The Chaser is a fine gripping crime thriller along the lines of the revenge story I Saw the Devil.
Both films feature a psychopathic, sadistic killer of young women.
But in The Chaser the psychopathic serial killer Je Yeong-min (Ha Jeong-woo) plays second fiddle to a pimp Joong-Ho (played very well by Kim Yoon-seok) who was a cop before being fired for corruption.
When the pimp’s girls start disappearing and the pressure from his financiers starts mounting, Joong-Ho goes out looking for reasons.
The story is gripping, the screenplay taut, the acting impressive and photography excellent.
It’s interesting that the audience is in on the depraved nature of Je Yeong-min long before the pimp realizes the enormity of the horror he ultimately comes face to face.
The Chaser is a horrendously violent film that involves hammering people to death with a chisel and chopping them off piece by piece. So, if you have a weak constitution we suggest you skip it.
We can’t wait to watch Na Hong-jin’s following movie The Yellow Sea.
The Man from Nowhere
This one is a typical action film where one angry man goes all out against a bunch of drug peddlers and organ harvesters.
When a quiet pawnshop owner’s young neighbor is kidnapped by drug smugglers and organ harvesters, the man who ‘only lives for today’ goes all out to save the little girl from the brutal thugs who ‘only live for tomorrow.’
But it’s no easy battle for our pawnshop man, he with the hair falling on his face. For more than a third of the film, you don’t even see his face.
Won Bin as the pawnshop fellow Cha Tae-sik and Kim Sae-ron as the little girl So-mi throw in powerful performances, adding to the allure of this superb action film.
Lee Jeong-beom is the director of this 2010 movie that did very well at the box office in South Korea.
Be warned though that the violence in this movies too is horrific and not for the faint of heart.
Once all ye schmucks watch movies of the class of The Chaser, The Man from Nowhere or I Saw the Devil, you’ll realize most Indian directors are jokers. Or maybe you putzheads won’t.
By the way, both Chaser and The Man from Nowhere have, not surprisingly, picked up a whole bunch of awards.
SearchIndia.com strongly recommends The Chaser and The Man from Nowhere. Both are available on DVD and Instant Play at Netflix.