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A Pulse-Raising Actioner With Ample Thrills & A Messy Script

Feb 1, 2023

Home Movie Reviews Hunt Review: A Pulse-Raising Actioner With Ample Thrills & A Messy Script

The script fails to stand on its own, so it is up to Lee Jung-jae to craft a compelling narrative through his directing and performance.

Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo-sung in Hunt

Hot off the heels of his Emmy-winning performance in the hit Netflix series Squid Game, Lee Jung-jae reminds audiences that he is not some new hot commodity out of South Korea, but he is a bona fide mega-star that Western audiences are lucky to be blessed with. His latest project showcases his boundless skills as he directs, writes, produces, and stars in Hunt, a Cold War-era espionage thriller set in South Korea.

Hunt, Lee’s directorial debut, follows two agents, Park Pyong-ho (Lee) and Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency who must find a North Korean mole embedded deep within the agency. There is a bit of a rivalry between the two as they head up different divisions. It causes unexpected shifts in their investigation, and they naturally suspect each other. As they chase down the traitor, it becomes clear that the whole agency will be impacted and maybe even burn down with them.
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Lee Jung-jae in Hunt

This action thriller is not short on intrigue, drama and action, but the main hook is the acting. As always, Lee impresses with a committed performance and an alluring aura that pulls viewers in easily. His co-star, Jung Woo-sung, is equally dynamic, matching Lee’s intensity and fire. The two play off each other very well, complementing one another’s distinct character traits, creating the sense that their characters are not the same kind of agent. Their performances ground this intense and, at times, muddled action-thriller.

Lee has certainly learned a lot from his many years as an actor. His camera skills are smooth, efficient, and effective. He adapts to the needs of each scene to increase the intensity and drama at any given moment. His patience in his style is admirable; and even more admirable is his ability to overcome an overcooked screenplay (that he co-wrote). The movie never loses momentum, even when it must resist the urge to be an actioner and settle into the mystery. There is a story to be told, and it cannot be told with guns and car chases alone, though Lee at least tries.

Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo-sung in Hunt

As impressive as Lee’s directing is, and he commits to finding a balance in this story, it is hard to say that he is successful. The story suffers a bit due to pacing, but the script is also deficient. It is convoluted in the worst possible ways. Concealing the identity of the traitor and the truth of the whole narrative is key to a successful mystery thriller, but the result is laughable, and that should not be the goal. Lee’s hyper-intense approach to capturing the story luckily shifts attention away from the lacking script.

Whether the script intended it or not, Hunt is a cynical and nihilistic examination of the tough road to peace. While peace is the “goal” for the agency, there is a sense of feeling utterly helpless to impending doom. Whether it frustrates the characters or not, they contribute to the mayhem. It’s a sharp take on South Korean-North Korean relations, but that unpleasant, dangerous atmosphere drives the movie from the very first explosive action scene. The script fails to stand on its own, so it is up to Lee to craft a compelling narrative through his directing and performance. With some fine-tuning, the frantic, chaotic nature of the stylized action would be grounded by incisive and poignant writing.

Despite troubles from the page, Hunt excels as a pulse-raising actioner. It exists to excite audiences through its sheer audacity. Shallow as it may be, it is entertaining. Whatever Lee Jung-jae decides to pursue as his next feature, with a solid script, a masterpiece is bound to be made.

Next: Decibel Review: Lee Jongsuk & Cha Eunwoo Shine In Taut Action Thriller

Hunt opened in theaters and is available on VOD Friday, December 2. It is 131 minutes long and not rated.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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