Set in a dystopian, future South Korea (although not so far from where we are now), Time To Hunt is the first feature from American-born filmmaker, Yoon Sung-hyun. In the film, Seoul has become a polluted, hazy monolith of flat blocks overflowing with poverty and crime after the South Korean won goes bust and is rendered useless. Now, getting your hands on elusive US dollars is the only way out of a life of urban misery, the intention of three best friends: the newly released from prison, Jun-seok (Lee Je-hoon), the clumsy asthmatic, Jang-ho (Ahn Jae-hong), and the suburban Ki-hoon (Parasite’s Choi Woo-shik). Bonded by a previous crime gone somewhat wrong, the petty criminals enlist a reluctant old friend who works as a server in a gambling den to rob his workplace’s safe.
What starts as a high-paced heist film quickly escalates into a survival thriller, as the criminals, who resemble more of a boy band, soon realise they’ve made a life-threatening error in targeting drug lords who waste no time in sending an assassin after them – played with blood-chilling coolness by Park Hae-soo.
The film’s action set-pieces are a thrill, shot with stylish panache by cinematographer, Lim Won-geun, and tightly edited by Yoon Sung-hyun and Wang Sung-ik. With a runtime of over two hours, Time To Hunt’s ability to maintain tension is impressive, although its ending, working overtime to set up potential sequels, could have been whittled down.
But despite a baggy ending, the film works like clockwork, down to Yoon Sung-hyun’s understanding of how to shoot suspenseful action and his skill in building relationships between his three main characters so that we invest in their peril. With its relentless barrage of bullets, charismatic young cast and bass-heavy soundtrack, Time To Hunt could well be the coolest thriller of the year.
Time To Hunt was seen and reviewed at the Berlin Film Festival 2020.