NYAFF 2010: CHAW Review
I know piracy is a real problem,
but I'm rapidly losing patience with the giant, garish watermarks being
slapped on screeners these days. Especially on films with subtitles.
It makes it feel like the entire screen is overcrowded with text,
for your attention, obfuscating the action. It is a huge distraction
and a detriment to the overall viewing experience. It turns watching
a decent movie into a real chore. Take that for what you will, in
to what follows.
OK, on to the review.
Is it a coincidence that I happened
to watch Chaw on June 20th, 35 years to the day after
the release of Jaws? Let me put it this way- you can't spell
"Chaw" without "aw," and if you put a J on it, you're
only one letter away from "Jaws," so yeah, probably a coincidence.
In fact, i didn't even make the connection until local law enforcement
decided it would be bad for the economy to shut down the weekend farming
operation, causing me to look up weekend farming on the internet (it's
exactly what it sounds like,) which is when I was made aware of the
Other than that, sharks were the
furthest thing from my mind. Chaw is more the
Korean answer to Razorback,
a comparison I make with confidence, despite never having seen the film.
For a simple B movie, Chaw has a multitude of characters, and at times
I felt like I was watching the Magnolia of
killer pig films. Despite this, the plot
is simple enough. The film's former hunter turned grizzled sage explains
it best- "The mountains were destroyed by golf courses and weekend
farming. Poachers killed off all the animals, so the hungry beasts dug
up graves and developed a taste for human organs." Quite a delicious
summary, don't you think?
Like a dismembered body that needs
to be reassembled, Chaw is jigsaw puzzle of genre. It is part
part comedy, part action film and part character study. You wouldn't
think all the limbs belong to the same body, but they do. At times the
film feels stretched a little thin, resulting in the cinematic
of "Chicken Leg Syndrome." It stumbles around, top-heavy,
when a stronger foundation of comedy and horror would have provided
Another issue, which stems from this,
is the run-time. At just over two hours, this is the longest killer
pig movie I've ever sat through. We don't even see the damn thing until
the halfway point. I don't want to be the guy complaining about
development, but Chaw has a lot of setup for a B grade genre
Pork is supposed to be lean, but there is definitely some fat to be
trimmed here. That quirky neighbor who beats her son? Other than
a few laughs, she serves very little purpose.
Unless, of course, she had some super
last-minute function. My screener glitched and froze on me at the hour
fifty-five mark, so if anything important happened thereafter, I missed
it. Try as I might, I couldn't get the disc to play past that point.
So if the key to the entire movie exists in those last few minutes and
I am totally misreading it, dear readers, I apologize.
But enough about plot and character,
you guys want to hear about the pig, right? Does he wreak havoc? Does
he bring home the proverbial bacon? Honestly... not really. He looks
like a Muppet CGI Pumba jacked up on steroids. This would add to the
camp factor, if the film had fully committed to being a comedy, but
it didn't and it doesn't. Cheap CGI seems like an easy out these days,
and makes me long for a time when practical effects roamed the land.
I would have preferred the tactile presence of an animatronic, no matter
how silly looking.
I'm sure there's an audience out
there for Chaw's slapdash mash-up of genre, but brother,
it ain't me. It's probably more fun in a theatre full of people than
at home with the word "SAMPLE" permanently burned into the
screen, but it didn't bring enough laughs or gore for my tastes. I
a new take on an old idea, but in the end Chaw only succeeded in making me hungry for Korean
screens Monday, June 28th and Thursday, July 1st at Walter Reade
Theater. Click here to buy tickets!