Take a conventional spy flick, pour about nine double espressos into it and you might get something like this frenetic, blood-splattered South Korean thriller. It’s a maelstrom of double and triple crossings, spent bullet casings, exploding vehicles and sudden punch-ups, all stitched loosely together via a plot that will require you to type ‘South Korean history 1980s’ into Google to have any clue what’s going on.
It’s the directorial debut of Lee Jung-jae, best know outside his homeland as Squid Game’s great survivor Seong Gi-hun. Behind the camera, he struggles to match the creeping suspense of that massive Netflix hit, or its canny gear shifts. Hunt is a film stuck entirely in fifth, racing from one sudden shootout to another at the expense of the labyrinthine plot.
On screen, though, Lee’s enigmatic aura is a nice fit for Park Pyong-ho, an intel operative in the South Korean equivalent of the CIA charged with tracking down a North Korean mole. Also involved is old rival Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), whose domestic intelligence agency suspects Park’s mob of knowing more than they let on.
The steady stream of sadistic torture scenes make ‘24’ look like ‘Paw Patrol’
Throw in a plot to assassinate the repressive South Korean president, the threat of a sudden North Korean invasion and an undercurrent of popular unrest and there’s altogether too much going on to tie neatly together. Sure enough, the script makes merry with its main characters’ motivations in a violent climax that makes barely a bean of narrative sense.
And while the action scenes are often satisfyingly intense, the steady stream of sadistic torture scenes make 24 look like Paw Patrol. They sit less comfortably in a genre flick best viewed as a over-the-top guilty pleasure.
In UK cinemas and streaming on altitude.film now.