Lee Je Hoon, Choi Woo Sik, Ahn Jae Hong, Park Jeong Min, and Park Hae Soo star in the heist film Time To Hunt, which launched on Netflix last Friday, April 23.
Set in a dystopian world where Korea is recovering from a financial crisis, Time To Hunt centers on 3 friends – Jun Seok, Ki Hoon, and Jang Ho – who stages a casino heist with the help of Sang Soo to gain the money they would use to escape Korea and live in a beach house in Taiwan. Things go well for the gang, up until they realize that they are being tailed by a mysterious hitman named Han who will stop at nothing to catch and kill them.
Just in time for its release last Friday, the members for the press got to ask the cast and the director Yoon Sung Hyung questions in an email interview where they talked about their inspirations for the film, their characters, and their chemistry as they worked with each other.
On the hellish Korea of Time To Hunt
The story starts when Lee Je Hoon's Jun Seok meets up with his friends Ki Hoon (Choi Woo Sik) and Jang Ho (Ahn Jae Hong) as he comes out of prison. As they drove around the city, Jun Seok learns that the Korea he is currently living in is no longer the Korea he knew – the value of Won is at its lowest, the stores had closed, the streets are empty, and people protest everywhere.
According to Director Yoon, what inspired him to create the film was the phrase "Hell Joseon" – a phrase that came about in Korea in 2015 to describe that time's socioeconomic situation, the unemployment of younger Koreans, and the working conditions in their society. "I thought that the biggest keyword among young people of today was "survival", and that I wanted to unravel that in a simple storyline against a hellish background," Yoon explained.
Yoon made sure that the audience understands that that "hellish background" is far from the version of Korea we all know, and transforming that place into a dystopian world was difficult with the given budget. "We tried to find many formerly-unknown places and shot a number of scenes in the so-called "new towns", he said. "A lot of the destructed spaces are in fact new towns, and we tried to use artistic variation to bring that to life".
- Also read: The Cautionary Tale That is 'Time to Hunt'
On their characters and their favorite scenes
Realizing that they got nothing to lose, the three friends decide to do a heist on a casino with the help of casino employee Sang Soo, and use all the money they'd get to escape and live a peaceful life by the beach in Taiwan.
Each character has their own traits that make them stand out throughout the film, something that the actors had to focus on when playing their parts. Lee Je Hoon's Jun Seok is the mastermind of it all, and he's driven by the desire to have a better life outside Korea. In playing that role, Lee Je Hoon said that rather than focusing on how he relates to his character, he prioritized more on how to bring out the fear from someone who's being chased.
Ahn Jae Hong, on the other hand, sees Ja Hong as someone who's neglected from society and only has his friends by his side. To him, his friends are his world, so it wasn't really a surprise that he joined the heist, and became one of the central characters to the story. For Choi Woo Sik, Ki Hoon's charm is his rebellious nature, as well as his caring attitude towards his family and friends. He wasn't really surprised that he did what he did towards the end of the film, and if given the same choice, he'd also have chosen his family over his friends.
Park Jeong Min plays the role of Sang Soo in the film, and is the key to making the heist happen. He describes his character as someone who's "alienated from people but wishes he could get along with others".
Lastly, there's Park Hae Soo's Han, a character who doesn't really have a background and is only known to have this desire to chase and kill Jun Seok and his friends. Asked about what his inspirations were in portraying the character, he said that he looked at Javier Bardem's character in 'No Country for Old Men' for minor aspects.
Time To Hunt keeps the audience at the edge of their seats the whole time – from the moment their plans were set into motion up to the end when everyone is unsure as to who will survive and who will not. For Lee Je Hoon, he said that while he had many favorite scenes, one of the moments that stood up the most was when his group became aware that Han was chasing them and they try to leave the underground parking lot. "When you're face to face with Han, holding the cold, heavy, and dark gun, the only thing that comes to mind is, 'Oh, I'm about to die,'"
For Park Hae Soo, however, it was the hospital chase scene, especially since the scene lingered on him even after the shoot was over. "I think even after we were done with the shooting process, the sense of disconnection from the world stuck with me, and I could feel my heart race for quite some time."
On what it's like working with each other on the set
Director Yoon revealed during the Q&A that the team he had for Time To Hunt is exactly the cast that he had in mind from the start. "They were all my number-one pick for each role," he said.
Time To Hunt is the reunion film for director Yoon, Park Jeong Min, and Lee Je Hoon, 9 years after they worked on Bleak Night. According to Lee, Bleak Night was one of the projects that launched his career, and so he was very thankful to be working again with Yoon and Park, and that he had a strong faith in them.
It's also Lee's first time to be working with Park Hae Soo, Choi Woo Sik, and Jae Hong. Still, he feels like he wouldn't be able to portray Jun Seok well without the others. "Physically, it was a very challenging project, but I couldn't have asked for better emotional and mental support than what these friends provided me."
The chemistry of the actors was also very apparent in the film, thanks to the close bond that they share on the set with the director. "There are instances where you would have a certain distance or feel a barrier between the cast and the director," Choi said, but with director Yoon, that distance/barrier was significantly reduced because he's young, and we think alike on so many levels."
On the film's Berlin International Film Festival premiere
Before it even came out on Netflix, Time to Hunt had its big premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival last February. Asked about this, the entire cast said that they all felt very happy and honored to be a part of the event.
While Park Jeong Min said that he felt grateful to the cast and crew of the film, Lee Je Hoon stated that the experience inspired him to dream of going to festivals like the BIFF. "I thought to myself that I really really want to attend these festivals again, and in order to do that, I'll need to keep working hard."
Meanwhile, the experience was different and more special for director Yoon Sung Hyun especially since he didn't really dream of going to the BIFF. "My hope was to have the film screened at fantasy film festivals, but being invited to such a huge segment of the Berline Festival – for a section that is the biggest following the official competition to boot – was surreal."
Yoon also shared that he was worried and anxious that the audience will be quite harsh at not liking the film, so when the audience bursted into applause after the credits started rolling, he was very emotional. "It was such a rewarding experience," he added. "I felt euphoric and thought, 'wow this is why so many people want to be at film festivals.'"
Time to Hunt is now streaming on Netflix.