‘Time to Hunt’ Boasts Exhilarating Tension as It Twists and Turns Through a Dystopian Landscape
In a dystopian as a financial crisis hits South Korea, four young men commit crimes to survive.
Director: Yoon Sung-hyun
Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Ahn Jae-hong, Choi Woo-shik, Park Jung-min, Park Hae-soo
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 134 minutes
Time to Hunt 사냥의 시간 is a crime heist thriller directed by Yoon Sung-hyun, set in a near dystopian future. Yoon Sung-hyun’s second feature film is unlike his debut heartwarming coming-of-age film, Bleak Night ‘파수꾼’ (2010). Time to Hunt is a bleak glimpse into a society so ravaged by poverty and crime, that even good people are left with no choice.
We first meet Joon-seok (Lee Je-hoon) after his release from a three-year stint in prison. He reunites with his best friends Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong) and Gi-hoon (Choi Woo-shik). With the dream dream of getting away from their hopeless world and to a brighter future in a far away land, the trio decides they need to do something drastic.
Without knowing exactly what they’re getting themselves into, they plan a heist on a gambling house. They attract the attention of Han (Park Hae-soo), a ruthless killer who is relentlessly hunting them down. The plot itself follows the usual heist formula, with a slow start that tends to bog down the rest of the film. Nevertheless, Time to Hunt picks up the pace in the second act and once it’s gotten going, the tension is constant.
What makes the film compelling is Han’s twisted cat-and-mouse chase, making a game out of the trio’s lives for his enjoyment. The jam-packed tension in this act leads to a tonal shift, a compelling change of pace from the previous.
With an almost horror-like atmosphere, I was kept on the edge of my seat. Han prowls and follows them everywhere. There’s nowhere for them to hide. The tension-building is impressive, in part because of the subtle yet imposing creative decisions Yoon takes.
The film is strong in the technical department. Yoon is bold with his lighting and camera work, and it works for him. The experimental lighting is fitting particularly of this dystopian society they’re living in. I especially appreciated the clever use of sound; Yoon didn’t use the usual sounds to trigger fear. His soundscape is smart and uncanny, almost as if you can’t explain why you’re unnerved, but you are.
Time to Hunt does at times feel patchy, with a strong second act but a somewhat disappointing ending. But what really makes the film in my opinion, is Yoon’s investment in the characters. There’s depth in their characterisations; they’re flawed and imperfect but manage to get our sympathy. There’s moments of genuine poignancy despite the action-packed circumstances.
Scenes where the trio’s friendship is explored has an emotional authenticity that will bring you back to the characters’ motivations – fighting for a better life with the people they love most.
Perhaps the most memorable performance comes from Lee Je-hoon, who plays the protagonist Joon-seok. Time to Hunt is Lee’s second project with Yoon (the first clinched him the several Best New Actor awards), and this harmonious relationship translates well onto the screen.
Joon-seok manages to frustrate with his outrageous plans, yet keeps you sympathetic to his plight. The merciless killer Han, played by Park Hae-soo, is also the perfect villain for a dystopian movie of this sort. His unrelenting cold-bloodedness equals the brutality of the world they now live in.
Yoon’s film is an enjoyable, keep-you-on-your-toes watch with compelling characters to boot. He gives us a look into a nihilistic future where the line between right and wrong has become even more ambiguous. Time to Hunt could have benefited from a more succinct plot, but audiences can certainly expect an entertaining time from this film.
Time to Hunt is now available for streaming on Netflix.
Check out the trailer below: