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March 2010

Chaw

cast: Eom Tae-woong, Jang Hang-sun, Yoon Jae-moon, and Yu-mi Jeone

director: Shin Jeong-won

117 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
review by Jim Steel

Chaw

Everyone out of the water! It's a giant... No! Out of the woods! It's a giant pig! Don't tell the city folks or it'll scare them away!

Yes! It's Jaws - on dry land! Let's just avoid translating that title in case it leads to annoyance. There are other elements, of course. The local police force are a falling-down slapstick match for the Keystone cops and, being an oriental horror, there is also a scary, long-haired woman wandering about the place. When Officer Kim (Uhm Tae-woong) arrests the wrong man for drunk driving (very drunk but also very powerful), he is transferred out to Semeri, a remote village that is famed - within its own boundaries, at least - for being crime-free. This is mostly because the police don't bother arresting people for drunk driving. Kim arrives with his pregnant wife and Alzheimer's-ridden mother to find himself in what at first appears to be Korea's answer to Royston Vasey and, despite the village's reputation, he is instantly involved in a murder investigation.

Okay: stop me if this starts to sound familiar. Body parts have been found but eventually a wild animal is discovered to be the culprit. The mayor, unwilling to close the place down and keen to sort everything out before the people from the city are frightened away, sends for hunters. They come, the kill a giant pig. This isn't the one that's been causing the damage, says expert. Mayor doesn't listen. Real giant pig shows up and causes mayhem. Party, comprising of cop, expert hunter and biologist set off to hunt him down in his natural environment. Okay, so there are two cops and two hunters in the party, but it's a pretty good match for a certain 1970s blockbuster.

Where Chaw scores points is in its kookiness... The only other competent policeman, Detective Shin (Park Hyeok-gwon), is a kleptomaniac who pockets small items whenever he gets the chance. Baek (Yoon Jae-moon), the younger hunter, hears his dog talking to him telepathically in Finnish because it came with a pair of massive Finnish hunters. The two Finnish hunters may sound just like a pair of good ol' boys, but the dog is fluent in Finnish. There is also Il-man (Jang Hang-sun), the grandfather of one of the early victims. The girl was, in fact, hit by a drunk driver in one of the more shocking scenes here, and the pig merely swallowed the evidence, but Il-man never finds out about that. It's a very unsatisfactory loose end, but it is not ultimately important. It does mean that Il-man has to reveal himself to be a retired hunter - one of the best - and he has, of course, history with Baek.

And you can pretty much fill in the larger picture yourself, right down to the Terminator-style industrial finale. The CGI giant boar is effective rather than spectacular, but it is the little, whimsical details that make this film enjoyable. Shin likes to show-boat with small vignettes, but he's sensible enough to remember that he's making a black comedy and he keeps the film moving along. A few of the jokes may fall flat, but he delivers a much better giant killer pig film than the recent Pig Hunt. Being Korean, Chaw features moments of genuine horror (mostly the meals), and the characters are of the opinion that Japanese wartime activities are to blame for it all. It's a tradition.

The trailer is included as a DVD extra.



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