South Korean Thriller Is A Campy Delight That Overstays Its Welcome

Jan 26, 2023

A cargo ship transporting the most dangerous South Korean prisoners provides the setting for Kim Hung-sun’s gloriously absurd actioner “Project Wolf Hunting.” Equal parts “Con-Air” and “Predator,” this hybrid sci-fi/thriller may make no narrative sense whatsoever, but it nevertheless provides borderline obscene amounts of violence and blood that, depending on your tolerance, will either be campily enjoyable or never-ending. Personally, I fell into the former category, as Kim stages a series of over-the-top action scenes on the claustrophobic confines of the ship. While the film may run out of ideas about halfway through its overly-long two-hour runtime, it’s still a pretty fun and deranged ride. 
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The film begins as 47 violent criminals, including serial killer Park Jang-du (Seo In-guk), are placed aboard a ship going from the Philippines to Busan, South Korea. They are being transported by detectives, including newbie Lee Da Yeong (Jung So-Ming), tasked with babysitting them. Just as quickly as the boat leaves the harbor, they are attacked by Park’s associates, who take over the ship and free all the prisoners. 
So far, we are given a pretty standard B-move set-up, pitting overmatched cops with an overwhelming amount of the most-violent criminals imaginable. Yet, below the ship, they also transport a zombie-like super-soldier, Alpha (Gwi-ha Choi). Just as the factions are being formed, Alpha wakes up. With his introduction, “Project Wolf Hunting” takes a hard-left turn. No longer concerned with fleshing out any of the characters, the film quickly transforms into a chase movie. 
Why would they house several criminals on the same boat as Alpha? No idea, but that decision proves to be a catalyst for a type of mayhem rarely seen in American films. Whatever hierarchy and motivations that the prisoners create are quickly jettisoned as Alpha begins stomping around, his eyes stapled shut; he instead uses his heat-seeking vision to dispatch the criminals and police with precision.
If the film begins as a routine of cops versus criminals, that idea quickly flies off the rails. The film’s middle act is precise and propulsive, moving from set-piece to set-piece as we check in with the various side characters as they unwittingly cross paths with Alpha. These kills are some of the most violent, as literal gallons of blood spew across the ship.     
But, by the time we get to the sequel-baiting ending, “Project Wolf Hunting” has long overstayed its welcome. There are only so many times one can watch someone get beaten with their own detached limb before it becomes routine. Further, an unnecessary late-act flashback to Alpha’s origins, and his connection to others on the ship, may help provide exposition about the film’s title, but it’s also wholly unnecessary for a movie that is really about an uncontrollable super-soldier going on a killing spree. 
Whenever Kim slows down the film to dive into the motivations or backstory of this expansive group of characters, you can feel the momentum deflate immediately. Somewhere within these two hours is a lean-90-minute action film that is only interested in violence and gore. “Project Wolf Hunting” may occasionally get bogged down in its own mythology-building, but once the kills start piling up, it’s easy to get lost in the mayhem. [C+]  
“Project Wolf Hunting” is open now in limited release via Well Go USA.

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