South Korean cinema is well-known for its perturbing thrillers such as Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, I Saw the Devil, Memories of Murder as well as the latest hit, Parasite. Although those films broke into the mainstream film market, South Korean productions are still not ‘in fashion’ like French, Scandinavian or American cinema. However, with the new wave of high-budget productions, which are on par with Hollywood blockbusters and have several features that the latter often lack, the number of viewers has quickly grown. With the power of Netflix, more Korean content has become available to the international audience. In April of this year, Netflix released Time to Hunt, a Korean dystopian action thriller that, prior to its premiere on the small screen, was shown at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in February as part of the Berlinale Special section. 

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Photo © Netflix

After nine years of hiatus, Yoon Sung-hyun finally resurfaced with his second feature, Time to Hunt, and reunited with Park Jung-min and Lee Je-hoon who, since their debut in Bleak Night in 2011, are on top of their game. After serving a three-year sentence, Jun-seok (Lee Je-hoon) leaves prison and is faced with a fallen world where Won has no value and the money he stole with his associates, Ki-hoon (Choi Woo-shik) and Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong), is partly squandered. But Jun-seok has dreams, and for him to be able to execute any of them is to have a large sum of money. As a result, he suggests to Ki-hoon and Jang-ho that they should rob an illegal gambling house. With an almost perfect plan, and a very nervous trio for that matter, they sweep the cash and go on the run without realising that Han (Park Hae-soo), a killer hired by the casino, is sent to retrieve not the missing money, but something else that the group took while robbing the place. Han, who is just one step behind the terrified young men, becomes a symbol of the personification of guilt, as now the trio must face the consequences of their actions while fighting for their lives. Although the audience does not know much about Han himself, Park Hae-soo portrays him so well, that just by chasing the protagonists, he arouses the psychosis of those characters and grasps the viewers by their throats with his explosive performance. 

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Photo © Netflix

Time to Hunt can be easily categorised as a thriller that blends elements of a psychological drama and an action film. Mostly illuminated in red and blue colours, the film is also embellished with a soundtrack created by Primary (Choi Dong-hoon), who was once the trendiest hip-hop producer, previously working with the Dynamic Duo and Beenzino. Yoon Sung-hyun, with his straightforward narrative, also drew on a portrait of a disappointed youth whose illusions and dreams are dispelled. With its dystopian look, Time to Hunt is a spine-chilling film, however, the length of the production could have been streamlined. Towards the end, the almost never-ending cat-and-mouse game runs out of air and the storyline quickly becomes monotonous. But, with the final emotional gesture, the film finds a moment to take a breath and leaves a door wide open for a sequel. 

Rating: image-2

Written by Maggie Gogler

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Asian Cinema, Film, Film events and festivals, Foreign Films, General, Korean Cinema