Friday, September 16, 2011

Netflix streaming fun: Shin Jeong-won's Korean "monster" movie CHAWZ

Sometimes there ain't nuttin' like a good ol' monster movie to git dem juices flowin'. Flow they will with CHAWZ (Chawu or simply Chaw), the relatively new (2009) Korean scare flick about a wild board gussied up to mammoth proportions and gone on a heavy-duty nibbling spree. TM streamed it off Netflix while he was in hospital for that recent knee replacement, and it proved just the thing to take his mind off his own pain and put it onto the pain of others -- momentarily, at least. (In fact, the film offers 122 minutes of moments: It's Korean, remember, and they like their movies long!)

To set the tone (and the pace and the style), Mr Shin, shown at right, begins with a montage of Korean dining habits, whether gourmet or gourmand you will have to determine for yourself. In any case, there is clearly too much food being consumed, and much of it appears to come from endangered species -- serving up a populace who is becoming ever less considerate of the planet and its environment

When that point has been made (it is not really approached much again in the film, but that's OK: Once is plenty), the killings begin (yes, that's a dangling hand, above), but as is -- or should be -- de rigeur in this kind of movie, we get few if any glimpses of the monster itself.  For awhile. This works for a couple of reasons. Too much too soon deadens the pleasures and scares of monster movies, and for U.S. audiences, a large wild boar is not guaranteed to throw the fear of the lord into many of us. Thanks, however, to Shin's use of this monster, its familial ties and the why of what it is doing, the movie soon takes on some fun, fright, and even -- dare we say it -- a little charm.

The showdown taking place approximately mid-film between the boar, some diners and the great yellow hunter (above) during a celebratory food festival offers enormous and surprising fun. And while there appears to be a love story or two growing between various characters, these are handled with less cliché than you'd find in most American films of this genre. And when things threaten to get to 'icky-sweet', that boar sees to it that they don't.

With the film are various smaller concerns: fractured families, the care of an aging mother, and the seemingly ever-present problems South Koreans have with their police force. In film after film the cops are mostly venal or incompetent, except for the one or two who show some nerve and caring (above). In CHAWZ this is played mostly for humor, but it still leaves one wondering: What's with Korean cops?

No masterpiece for sure, the movie is still pretty good, and since it was not declared uber-brilliant by critics, as was The Host (Gwoemul), which proved a disappointment to many of us, you can watch Chawz (yes, I suspect the marketing team stuck that "z" in so that it would rhyme with Jaws) at the very least like a guilty pleasure that turn out to be not so guilty after all.  The movie may be "boaring," but it's seldom boring.

Chawz, from Magnet Releasing, is stream-able now and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, for sale or (soon, one hopes) for rental, too.

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