Plots in half of espionage action films are difficult, if not outright convoluted. But I’ll try to explain the plot in the genre’s newest entry, Lee Jung-jae’s Hunt. This explanation, by the way, involves historical background. The assassination of South Korean President Park Chung-hee makes way for a military dictatorship that has a target on its back, namely from their Northern neighbours. The KCIA agents with the task of helping that new president evade those assassinations are Park Pyong-ho (Lee) and Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung). They’re not bumbling idiots but they’re not the best at their job and they’re on the receiving end of their boss’ tirades.
Thing is, these assassination attempts keep happening because of a mole they call Donglim, and this mole makes the KCIA agents turn against each other. Park investigates other agents, including his corrupt boss, and does this while balancing a strained home life. That synopsis feels simpler on paper than it is on screen. Anyway, one of the many twists here of course is that someone is also investigating Park. That person is Jang Cheol-seong (Heo Song-tae). Both Lee and Heo are stars of Squid Game, the latter becoming recognizable once he wears his signature scowl.
Regardless, to Hunt‘s credit, it’s nice to see both outside of that universe into this sleek one where everyone’s wearing their Sunday best. I write the same for Hunt‘s intentions. It’s one of a few South Korean movies that exposes the darker side of their country’s already dark history. I’m more ambivalent when it comes to the movie’s aesthetic outside of the costumes. I get it, it’s a movie about spies who express their anger and sadness with constant movement. Sadly, the cinematography’s dark green tones dampen the action on screen.
The action here, as we know, serves as a manifestation of the tension between North and South Korea (duh). Sadly, Hunt makes parts of the plot feel incomprehensible. For example, viewers know park’s work relationship with Bang Joo-kyung (Jeon Hye-jin) but his relationship with Go Yoon-jung (Jo Yoo-jeong)? Not creepy, but who knows? There’s a lot of exposition here either through closeups of top secret files that the characters try to burn or through actual dialogue.
In general, the movie makes viewers feel like it presents all this information without letting the viewers digest it. Between the expository scenes are, duh, the action scenes. A lot of bullets fly and a lot of people die. To the movie’s credit, there isn’t too much blood or viscera to make it worse than it already is, but none of the deaths feel like they mean anything. We don’t even know what the characters are fighting for because the movie hides their motivations. Finally, we eventually find out who Donglim is during the third act, but by that time, I stopped caring.