Let’s go for a big score.
Time to Hunt follows three (eventually four) friends who are tapped in a dystopian society. Desperate to escape to a better life, they decide to rob an illegal gambling ring and make their escape. I’m sure you can guess how this goes….
The film added the dystopian angle (I think) to break away from the standard heist/hunted by a supreme assassin story. The problem is that the dystopian setting doesn’t seem fictitious. Saying this was just a crime ridden area of South Korea would probably have worked. We see homelessness, crime, pollution, and protests, but none of these things are uniquely dystopian. Here we have an interesting idea that doesn’t fully come to life.
Additionally, the first chunk of the film suffers from some odd tone shifts. Ki Hoon (Woo-sik Choi) appears to be the main character at first and seems too foolhardy to be a criminal. The film shifts to Jun Seok (Lee Jehoon) an optimist who sees a better future through robbery (despite just getting out of prison) as the main character. Jang Ho (Jae-hong Ahn) rounds out the primary trio and seems to be the bridge between the two personalities. The film becomes so damn serious, as it should, once the robbery occurs that the early humor doesn’t fit the world. If the world has gone to shit, why are they laughing it up so much?
The overarching plot works well. Sure, it is derivative, but who cares? This is a crime story well-told, even if familiar. Granted, there are some problems. One major issue with the film is that you could nitpick it to death. Glancing over my notes, I could see how this film could be picked apart by the sin channels on YouTube (which is a fun exercise for sure). For example, our gaggle of criminal masterminds discuss *loudly* their intentions in a packed club. They seem obvious in their surveillance of the place, and so forth. Sure, they plan to cover their tracks, but if the mob is so dangerous here, wouldn’t a little caution pre-robbery have made sense?
Things work out for our heroes because the script allows it to. The get an employee to help them, who is their friend, but we don’t see a huge reason for him to not turn on them. The assassin sent after them seems to want to be Anton Chigurh, but ends up letting them go because fuck it, that’s why. I guess he enjoys the hunt. However, he isn’t as intimidating when he seems to magically track our heroes only to let them go again and again.
Perhaps most frustrating is the stormtrooper levels of inaccuracy from almost everyone in the film (except the assassin). I’m no marksman, but I think with a fully automatic weapon I could hit something ten feet away… So many of the situations seem too convenient for folks to get away. “Oh, now he misses” sort of thing.
Yes, a lot of these issues are relatively minor, but they do add up. However, the film does prove to be a beast in regards of relentless tension. The pressure put onto our heroes is non-stop, and aside from a couple fumbles in the late game, this one delivers quite well. In other words, when the film works it really works.
Cutting some of the empty spaces between set-pieces may have helped, but a little tightening of the dynamics between the characters would be even better. The characters develop unevenly, but they all mostly work.
You probably notice how back and forth this review is, and that reflects the viewing experience. I enjoyed the movie, but I did not love it. I would watch another film from this team though. For folks looking for a smoldering crime drama, this one will mostly scratch that itch.
Worth a stream on Netflix.