Time to Hunt (2020) — Review


A small-time hustler gets out of prison after serving a three-year sentence for robbery and he has a new plan to make a ton of money and leave South Korea for the sunny beaches of Taiwan. He ropes in two of his friends and another who owes him money to rob a local gambling house. Not everything goes as planned.

That is the basic outline of Time to Hunt. If one were to judge movies by their story outlines, one would never want to watch another after watching maybe the first two or three of its kind. But thankfully, there are elements to story such as characters, motivations, situations, themes and storytelling that make them different. The above outline could be fleshed out into anything from a crime drama, a dark comedy, a horror movie to a wall-to-wall action flick. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

So, what kind of movie is Time to Hunt? Well, the title does not leave a lot of room for guesswork — it is a crime thriller. And does it work? Yes, it does. A lot of credit for that goes to the movie’s ability to shift gears and morph into a different beast altogether almost seamlessly.


The movie opens with a shot of two friends — Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong) and Ki-hoon (Choi-Woo-shik) bickering over clothes — branded or designer — in a grocery store. The banter continues even as the transaction ends and they step out of the store. The camera follows them and reveals a dystopian South Korean city. What was just a normal conversation between two friends a moment ago gets a different context with smog in the air and the homeless on the street. This opening shot establishes at the outset that these young boys, no matter how street-smart, aren’t really prepared for the world out there. When their friend Jun-seok (Lee Je-hoon), somewhat hardened by three years of jail time, joins them, we get to know that the present condition of the country and its people is not so because of any war or outbreak of disease, it was caused by economic meltdown. As the movie gradually starts painting the picture of a failed economy and the impact it has had on the people, especially the young, for whom escaping this bleak reality is the only way to move forward, even if it means taking great risks.

While the socio-political angst still simmers underneath, the movie continues to explore the three characters, their fears and their dreams and what they would not do to preserve the sanctity of the bond they share. And before you even get to say, “Hmm. A coming-of-age crime drama! I like where it is going,” it becomes a game of cat and mouse with a hint of a slasher.

The performances are on point, with the three leads bringing the just about the right mix of innocence, anxiety and boyish charm and ably complemented by the sinister, although underdeveloped, villain (they did try to flesh him out through his actions, which lead to some really tense moments). Although the movie begins to become predictable as it moves closer to the climax, director Yoon Sung-Hyun’s ability to create tense scences, which are ample in the movie, keeps the eyes glued to the screen. Even when you know how a scene will play out, you want to watch it for the sheer craft on display, supported by really good cinematography and sharp editing, which help bring out the director’s vision of this bleak world the protagonists must escape for a better future. This little crime thriller scores big over Netflix’s bigger release Extraction.

Revenger (2018) – Review

Park Hee-soon (left) and Bruce Khan (right)

With the South Korean martial arts movie Revenger, Netflix adds to its growing catalog of hyper-violent action movies. But, is it able to match the standards (for better or worse) set by the other acclaimed movies – the two Raid films, the other two Iko Uwais starrer Headshot and The Night Comes For Us, and Keanu Reeves’ neon-drenched ballistic ballet John Wick – available on Netflix?

Bruce Khan, who plays the protagonist, doubles up as the screenwriter for the movie, which is directed by Lee Seung-wan III in his debut. As you may have guessed by the title, the movie tells the story of a man seeking revenge on a ruthless criminal who murdered his family. That’s right, the staple of the revenge genre (my condolences, there, to the fictional families who have died so that we could enjoy the sweet nectar of revenge exacted by punching the wrongdoer to a pulp).

So, what’s new? This time the “revenger” must infiltrate a prison island, fight off hordes of criminals, make a bunch of allies, dispatch a few more along the way, and then punch the villain to a pulp. So, yeah, it’s a generic revenge movie caged in a poor man’s Hunger Games, which itself is a poor man’s Battle Royale.

But I am sure the people (including me) who would watch this movie wouldn’t want the movie to be burdened needlessly with a plot for the sake of it. Too many plot lines, characters, and convoluted storytelling seem forced and take away the impact of the action. The good news is there is none of that to worry about, and the movie delivers on the action promised in the trailers. The bad news is, apart from the action, there is nothing to worry about. None of the characters are fleshed out and the plot only exists as a breather in between the seemingly relentless fight scenes.

Bruce Khan, who has worked in the South Korean movie industry as a stunt performer, brings all the years’ experience to the screen. And the result is some really great hand to hand combat sequences. In fact, the action is the only redeeming factor about the movie, and Bruce Khan the only custodian of the winning combination of punches and kicks, for the script allows no one else to shine like Bruce does, which is easy to see why when the credits roll.

I would definitely like to watch Bruce Khan in the future, but only if he lets someone else write the screenplay.