Hunt Review: a confusing but captivating spy thriller

“Lee Jung-jae presents himself as a filmmaker to watch with Hunt, a vibrant spy thriller that suffers primarily from its own overly convoluted and confusing plot.”


  • Lee Jung-jae’s sophisticated, captivating visual style

  • Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo Sung’s multi-layered lead performances

  • A surprisingly complex, exciting last third


  • A repeating second act

  • Too convoluted plot

  • A term that could be shorter

hunt is, to put it mildly, an ambitious film. The new South Korean drama is a spy thriller set in the 1980s, following the perspectives of two security officers trying to ascertain each other’s motives. Structurally and narratively, the film bears more than a few similarities to similar double agent thrillers The departed and Infernal Affairs. Visually and true to scale however hunt is built more like a blockbuster thriller in the same vein as movies The Bourne Ultimatum or argon.

That’s a difficult balance for any film, especially one that’s directed — like hunt is – by a first-time director. Then it is a miracle hunt works as good as it gets. Led by Squid Game Star Lee Jung-jae, who also appears in the film as one of the two main actors, hunt is a breakneck, unpredictable spy thriller. Throughout its 131-minute run, the film’s story often wobbles and trembles under the weight of its own tangled ambitions, but it never falls apart.

The fact that hunt Never Completely Crumbled is a testament not only to the film’s appealing visual style, which borrows heavily from well-known authors such as Paul Greengrass and Park Chan-wook, but also for its unrelenting pace and well-choreographed set pieces. Those who make it through the film’s many unnecessary twists and confusing detours will likely be surprised by the power of hunt‘s surprisingly satisfying final third.

Chaos (and style) reigns

Lee Jung-jae is holding a phone while sitting in his car in Hunt.
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Based on a screenplay by Lee and Jo Seung-Hee, hunt opens in absolute chaos. The film’s first sequence follows Park Pyong-ho (Lee), the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency’s Foreign Unit, and Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), the chief of the KCIA’s Domestic Unit, as they and their teammates stalk all fighting to prevent an assassination attempt on the South Korean President. Throughout the sequence, they speed through the streets and buildings of a 1980s version of Washington DC taken over by protests.

As for opening sections, hunt‘s quickly establishes its unrelentingly fast pacing, which it maintains throughout its runtime, as well as its frenetic, mostly wearable visual style. However, unlike many Paul Greengrass imitators, Lee never disregards his audience’s sense of geography or continuity just to reinforce the film’s chaotic aesthetic.

huntThe action sequences of , including the assassination at the beginning in DC, are all made up of quick cuts and handheld shots, but This is thanks to Kim Sang-Bum’s precise editing that they never become incoherent or mind-numbingly confusing.

A confusing story

You can’t say the same hunt‘s plot that contains so many levels and false clues that it would be difficult to keep track of even in a film that doesn’t move that fast. However, hunt moves at a frighteningly fast pace from start to finish, often delivering important information so quickly and casually that it’s easy to get lost in the web of the film’s mysteries and lies. Those paying close attention will likely be able to stick with the film, even during those moments when its story becomes too confusing and twisted for their own good, most of which come along the way hunt‘s bloated second act.

Jung Woo Sung wears a pair of surveillance headphones in Hunt.
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

In its quest to be as bombastic and action-packed as possible, huntThe climax sequence of also revolves around a few too many twists. In particular, the scope of the film’s final set piece becomes too unwieldy for its director and editor, and it introduces the kind of shoddy CGI effects absent from the rest of the film hunt. Even if it looks like it hunt dangerously close to falling apart, but the film manages to correct itself with the final 10 minutes, which are not only shocking but also admirably caustic and bittersweet.

A promising debut

hunt is further grounded by the lead performances of Lee and Jung. As the film’s rival security chiefs, both actors bear the unfortunate responsibility of having to hide the motivations and suspicions of many of their characters while still making performances that feel real and multidimensional. Luckily, Lee and Jung manage to pull off this tricky task by delivering performances that feel distinctly drawn and contradictory in a way that helps to root hunt‘s intricate narrative in the contrasting perspectives of its characters.

Hunt – Official Trailer | Directed by Lee Jung-jae

hunt‘s accomplishments ultimately prove how strong a film could be for Lee to direct should he ever manage to get his hands on a slightly tighter and cleaner script. How it is, hunt is a largely impressive directorial debut that establishes Lee as a surprisingly confident and technically proficient filmmaker. It’s an adrenaline-pumping slice of genre filmmaking that never quite reaches greatness, yet still delivers a ride that’s never anything short of entertaining and immersive.

hunt is now in theaters and on-demand.

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