The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] Awesome action lifts dull plot of 'Badland Hunters'

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Jan. 30, 2024 - 15:10

    • Link copied

Don Lee stars in “Badland Hunters.” (Netflix) Don Lee stars in “Badland Hunters.” (Netflix)

For a popcorn flick this weekend, Netflix original film “Badland Hunters,” Don Lee’s first project with the global streaming platform, might be the ideal answer.

Set in a post-earthquake Seoul where society has collapsed, fearless hunter Nam-san (Lee, better known in Korea as Ma Dong-seok) goes out to rescue Soo-na (Roh Jeong-eui), a teenager who has been kidnapped by Yang Gi-soo (Lee Hee-joon), a crazy doctor. “D.P” and “Mask Girl” star villain Lee Jun-young plays Nam-san’s partner, Ji-wan. Ahn Ji-hye plays special forces Sgt. Eun-ho, who helps Nam-san and Ji-wan in saving young people taken captive by Dr. Yang.

Directed by well-known martial arts director Heo Myung-haeng, the action choreography is professionally executed. Among the many fight action scenes and weapons the characters use -- from fists to a gun, bow and arrow and even a machete -- an unexpected gem comes in Ahn Ji-hye’s acrobatic action sequences using her slim body and long legs, maximizing props near her like the wall or a staircase handrail. Her performance is elegant and precise, a marked contrast from Don Lee’s powerful, heavy action moves.

In "Badland Hunters," action star Lee lives up to his reputation. He shows another level of rough, strong action regardless of where he finds himself – a ruined stadium, a landfill, a dungeon, an apartment and more. Just like in his previous crime action flicks, Lee’s very iconic action punch is upgraded, this time with a machete, ruthlessly cutting off the arms of soldiers flooding toward him.

“Badland Hunters” (Netflix) “Badland Hunters” (Netflix)

In contrast to the awesome action, the plot of "Badland Hunters" veers toward plain and dull.

While the director said in a press conference earlier this month that the background of “Badland Hunters” had nothing to do with “Concrete Utopia,” South Korea's unsuccessful submission for Oscars consideration this year, the apartment building that survived the devastating earthquake in Seoul looks exactly the same, as does the interior. The situation in which residents of the apartment are given supplies hierarchically is almost identical in "Badland Hunters” and “Concrete Utopia.”

The lack of explanation as to why Nam-san, Ji-wan and Soo-na have a familial bond makes it difficult for the audience to immerse themselves into the story as the three risk their lives for one another. That also leaves a question mark on what led to the crazy Dr. Yang’s obsession and love toward his daughter -- and why he became a villain.

“Badland Hunters” is available now on Netflix.