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[Herald Interview] Director challenges himself with action thriller ‘Time to Hunt’

Director Yoon Sung-hyun (Netflix)
Director Yoon Sung-hyun (Netflix)

After a two-month delay brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement of a global release deal and subsequent legal wrangling, director Yoon Sung-hyun’s second feature, “Time to Hunt,” was finally released on Netflix on Thursday.

“Although it is sad that I’m presenting my second piece in nine years’ time and I wish I could have returned earlier, I’m just happy that I can finally meet the audience,” Yoon said at an online press conference Monday.

Yoon, who debuted in 2011 with the highly acclaimed drama “Bleak Night,” said his latest film is a continuation of his narrative about the doomed reality of today’s youths. But this time, it is being told with more dynamic cinematic elements.

“A few years ago, when I was writing the script, there was a trend of young Koreans comparing Korean society to hell. I wanted to visualize that emotion and the urge for survival into a cinematic form,” Yoon said.

“Time to Hunt” is an action thriller about four young men trying to survive in the South Korea of the near future, a society that is completely destroyed after a catastrophic financial crisis. While robbing an illegal casino to get the money they need to flee the country, the four men are suddenly chased by a mysterious killer.

“All the films I make, even the short films, are focused on people. So this time, I wanted to rely less on conversations and more on visual elements,” Yoon said.

While “Bleak Night” was a hyper-real portrayal of relationships between young teenage boys in their daily lives, “Time to Hunt” takes place in a society born of Yoon’s imagination, one that blends elements of fantasy and realism. 

A scene from “Time to Hunt” (Netflix)
A scene from “Time to Hunt” (Netflix)

“It was difficult to define the tone and manner of the film, especially the artistic elements. Such films are not common in the Korean film scene and it was like hitting a stone with an egg,” Yoon said. “Searching for a space unfamiliar to the audience, we found a new town and built our set there.”

The director, who said the film would be nothing without the sound effects and music, got K-pop artist Primary to be the film’s music director.

“I had always wanted to work with Primary. However, I was worried about how well he would cover the huge spectrum of sound required by the film as he is a pop music artist. I was very surprised by how much effort he put into learning about producing film music and consequently expanded his musical abilities,” Yoon said.

Actors Lee Je-hoon and Park Jeong-min from Yoon’s first film are back in his second film. Lee has been cast in the lead role -- Joon-seok, the leader of the three friends -- while Park plays Sang-soo, a casino staff member who helps the three friends steal the money. Yoon had said in a previous press conference that he was personally close to the two actors and that the three had discussed much about the film as he developed the story.

Ahn Jae-hong of the JTBC drama “Melo Is My Nature” (2019) and Choi Woo-shik of the Oscar-winning “Parasite” co-star as Joon-seok’s friends.

Park Hae-soo plays the killer, Han, who plays a cat-and-mouse game with the four young men.

“Time to Hunt” was simultaneously released in more than 190 countries on Netflix on Thursday.

By Choi Ji-won (