Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
It has finally taken off the veil. Time to Hunt was released through Netflix on April 23 after being postponed due to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lawsuit over overseas copyright.
Time to Hunt is a thriller film that captures the breathtaking story of four friends who plan a dangerous operation for a new life and their mystery pursuer. The fact that this is the work of director Yoon Sang Hyun in nine years since Bleak Night grabbed the attention. Also as the film was officially invited to Berlinale Special Gala, making headlines. Prominent actors, including Lee Je Hoon, Choi Woo Shik, Ahn Jae Hong, Park Jung Min and Park Hae Soo, starred in the film, raising the expectations to the fullest.
It is said that director Yoon Sang Hyun envisioned Time to Hunt after getting inspired by a neologism “Hell Joseon.” The living hell that unfolds in Seoul in the near future is an attractive material that appeals to today’s youth who have grave misgiving regarding the unemployment crisis and economic recession. The message that the director is trying to convey stands out throughout the film.
Time to Hunt has put a great deal of effort into the chase scenes. The amount of chase scenes in the film is about 100 minutes. After spending the first 30 minutes on introducing background, motive for the crime and the actual crime, the rest of the film solely focuses on “the fear of the chased.” What’s interesting is that despite the film being a chase thriller, the story itself isn’t so speedy. The film delicately depicts the lethargy and fear the characters feel as they are slowly cornered, which resemble today’s people in their 20s or 30s, who live their lives in anxiety and pressure.
The visuals and sounds presented in Time to Hunt are quite creative. The gloomy and desolate landscape of Seoul, highlighted with red light, not only goes well with the message but also offers a similar yet differentiated charm from the cities depicted in other dystopian films such as Blade Runner and Terminator. Music with hipster-like feelings and the sound effects that maximize realism and tension also instill the unique individuality into Time to Hunt and double the fun.
The subject is clear, and the material is fresh. Its visuals and sounds are also attractive. But the problem lies in the fact that that’s all. Time to Hunt has poor content compared to its plausible and fancy appearance. It’s not the matter of “simple story.” Countless works have captivated the audience and critics, even with a concise plot. The main reason why Time to Hunt cannot follow the same path as such works is that the story lacks probability. Although Lee Je Hoon and other major actors showed passionate performances, the premise of “actors are the probability” will inevitably hit the wall. Jun Seok and his gang’s motive to commit crime and Han’s purpose of letting them go once then chasing them again are far from being convincing. In addition, there are some holes in the setting in some scenes, which seems somewhat slipshod to say that they are left for the imagination of the viewers.
The portrayal of the characters is also sloppy. Jang Ho, Ki Hoon, and Sang Soo are described as Jun Seok’s best friends, but the audience can’t really understand their friendship. It’s not “the friendship between masculine men” just because they exchange swear words and use violence. The amount of scenes the trio appears is entirely too small, and because even such scenes are treated only as tools, it seems like they are only present to make Jun Seok look pretty.
Also, the main villain, Han, is an important character who is suppose to lead the tension, but his charm is halved as he goes back and forth between a cool-headed killer and a psychopath. If the film had spent just 10 minutes out of a nearly 100 minutes chase sequence to build up the character of Han, it would not have been this disappointing. Due to the lack of probability and portrayals of the characters, it is hard to erase the thought that Time to Hunt feels more like a two-hour-long trailer instead of a whole movie.
Time to Hunt is undoubtedly an attractive piece of work. The dystopia-like future of Seoul drawn in the movie was plausible, and the anxiety of those who live in such a world is a problem that anyone can relate to. It also quite satisfies the fun felt in the slow-tempo movie like No Country For Old Men. Of course, it is regrettable that these advantages somewhat fade due to the lack of internal stability, but I would like to find meaning in the fact that the film showed the possibility of “Korean-style dystopia films.”
Verdict: Cake with empty filling but with delicious toppings (5/10)