Americans have their Philip Marlowe; Spaniards, Pepe Carvalho; Italians, Salvo Montalbano; Brazilians, Remo Bellini; Mexicans, Héctor Belascoarán Shayne; Japanese, Imanishi; Greeks, Kostas Jaritos; Chileans, Heredia; and Koreans, since 2008’s movie The Chaser, have Jung-Ho, an ex-police officer turned into a pimp investigating the vanishing of three of “his girls”. A psychopath kidnaps prostitutes, kills and buries them in a garden. This is not a spoiler: from almost the beginning of the film, we know the assassin; so do the police and Jung-Ho, and even have him under arrest. They are just looking for the corpses and the last kidnapped call-girl who could still be alive. There is a mixture of extreme violence and melodrama in this Korean action movie, both condiments so appreciated by East-Asian audiences. The aggressive detective swings between his dark side as a professional extortioner and his more caring face taking care of an orphan child. Behind all that is his feeling of guilt for exploiting the young women. But there are no limits –either moral or legal- for him in this politically incorrect movie. In the background of an exciting suspense there is a story of redemption and a mental fight inside Jung-Ho’s ethical consciousness: who is worse, the assassin who dismembers the girls or the pimp who exploits them to death? Doesn’t he see himself in the young psychopath’s behavior?
Other interesting aspects of Korean society are also shown here, such as gender relations, organized crime, the reaction of the police and even politics: everything happening in a gray and impersonal Seoul.
Last night, El crack 2 (1982) was shown on the Spanish TV, and its detective Germán Areta (interpreted by the popular until-then comedian Alfredo Landa but after the two films, the toughest actor in Spanish cinema) shares with Jung-Ho his self-confidence in front of young thugs and his intelligence, although his style is more contained, compared to the Korean detective’s excessive and gratuitous violence. It’s been only 30 years since Garci’s movie but the Madrid that is depicted there as another character, looks centuries old: billiards in Atocha, black and red taxis, Galerias Preciados, old-fashioned apartment houses, panoramic views of a city always changing, including the Gran Via, especially the Gran Via.