126 minutes, opens Thursday, 4 stars
The Story: In this espionage film set in turbulent 1980s South Korea that marks the directorial debut of Squid Game actor Lee Jung-jae, two men find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes game of cat and the mouse. Highly respected agent Park Pyung-ho (Lee) is the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency’s foreign unit, while former military officer Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung) is the head of the national unit.
When a North Korean mole known as Donglim leaks crucial information that threatens the country’s security, the two bosses begin to investigate each other, and in the process, get one step closer to a plot to assassinate the South Korean president.
The division between North and South Korea and the period of authoritarian rule under South Korea’s fifth president, Chun Doo-hwan, has been the background for many K-dramas and K-movies.
Hunt shows that it is not without good reason.
North Korean spies with dreams of reuniting the Koreas, by force or otherwise; students fighting for freedom and democracy; corrupt government officials; betrayals and deaths – that part of the story is a dramatic gold mine.
Lee, who directed, co-wrote and starred in the film, uses the pervasive climate of mistrust and fear of that era to the fullest in this action-packed story that is so full of twists and turns it would be ridiculous if it weren’t. bombastic and exciting.
High-speed car chases, gritty fight sequences, and tortured interrogation scenes are all part of Hunt’s thrill quotient: they’re real, loud, and downright painful to watch at points. But what gives the film that edgy touch is the performances of Lee and Jung.
As Park, Lee conveys the weariness of someone who has dedicated his entire career to a cause and is afraid to think for a moment if it was worth it. Jung, on the other hand, imbues the character of him with a clear, steely-eyed purpose that makes him quietly intimidating.
As characters who hide their intentions, the duo hold their bodies with such tension in all of their scenes that one wonders if they are about to have a heart attack.
And Lee has certainly taken advantage of his long career in entertainment to cast some of his A-list friends in bit parts for his first film as a director.
Watch out for Hwang Jung-min, Lee’s co-star in Deliver Us From Evil (2020), who eagerly chews up the stage in an unforgettable cameo that lasts less than five minutes. And she see if you can see the Ju Ji-hoon from Kingdom (2019 to present) in the background too.
Hot take: He trusts that the South Koreans will do an espionage story well.