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#TIFF22 Review: Hunt (Gala Presentations)

September 19, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival ran from September 8th to 18th.

The directorial debut of Korean actor Lee Jung-jae (the Emmy-winning star of Squid Game), Hunt is a political thriller set at the height of tensions between North and South Korea in the 1980s. Lee stars in the film as KCIA Foreign Unit chief Park Pyong-ho, who is working with Domestic Unit chief Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung) to investigate a mole within the agency.

As they search for the identity of a North Korean spy who goes by the codename Donglim, both men begin to suspect each other, with the clock running out as they try to thwart an assassination attempt against the South Korean president. What unfolds is very much in the vein of a classic espionage thriller built around a game of cat and mouse. The film is slickly made, with Lee staging several decent action sequences ranging from brutal fights to flashy shootouts and car chases.

But the screenplay, co-written by Lee and Jo Seung-hee, feels overly convoluted and the characters aren’t developed well enough to really ground the narrative. Sure, Hunt has some intriguing politics involving attempts at reunification between the North and South, and it is often entertaining enough for its set-pieces and technical craftsmanship, with Lee and Jung both showing off their decent chops as international action stars. But I found it hard to really connect to the film on a deeper emotional level, making the whole thing feel like a bit of an empty spectacle by the end.

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