The arrival of Netflix as a streaming giant has meant that there is more content than ever before for people to consume online today. One of the biggest benefits of this has been that viewers are exposed to movies and shows from all over the world, in different languages, something that was not possible even as recently as five years ago. This has led to people discovering excellent movies which they would have otherwise never even heard of. In that vein, the Korean movie ‘Time to Hunt’ is probably one of the best non-English movies released on Netflix this year, and is thus a must-watch for every movie fan.
‘Time to Hunt’ is a science-fiction thriller, set in a dystopian future in South Korea, where an assassin pursues four thugs after they successfully rob an establishment for gambling games i.e. a casino. The movie had a lot of legal issues this year, having to be pulled from its release date of April 10 before being finally released on Netflix, but it is an excellent watch, making the wait worth it. The main protagonist, Jun-Seok, is released from prison into a police state, where he finds that his meagre savings are now worthless since the economy has gone into a nosedive since he was put away. Along with his partners Ki-hoon and Jang-ho, he approaches Sang-soo, who works at an illegal gambling hub. The four of them plan a heist, stealing a bag of cash as well as the security tapes of the incident. However, the den is operated by a big crime syndicate, and the footage they have grabbed includes evidence of a major deal as well. Thus, the assassin Han is released on their trail, and the rest of the movie deals with their attempts to escape from him, as he proves to be a merciless and relentless adversary.
One of the key elements of the movie is the trio’s loyalty to each other. Despite various external pressures, as well as their own internalised problems, they refuse to let anyone be left behind. The dystopian future shown in the movie also goes well with the aesthetic of the movie, but it does seem as though that environment is just there to make the movie seem more moody and dark, without serving a real purpose. Anti-government protests and police enforcement are all glimpsed, but they add virtually nothing to the plot. Another element here is the complete lack of women – perhaps this is deliberate from the director, Yoon Sung-hyun, as an attempt to show the hyper-masculine thought process that has begun to become prevalent in the world today as well. However, the movie does end up lacking a softer touch as a result.
Nevertheless, the movie does succeed as a smart, slick thriller. Han’s character is relentless in his pursuit of the trio, and many viewers will be reminded of the Terminator through this display. Another bit of context is also important for non-Korean, and especially American viewers – South Korea has very strict gun control laws, which is why any bit of violence in Korean movies is generally greeted with a lot of shock by the characters in the movie itself. Thus, this style of thriller, with gunfights and an armed assassin, is not usually seen in Korean moviemaking. There are narrow escapes, tricks, twists and fights galore, which do make this an entertaining movie.
It is technically impressive, with superb camerawork, lighting as well as the background score, but as said earlier, the plot and its resolution leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, those technical high points are enough to make this a very enjoyable watch.