Following the great success of “New World”, Park Hoon-jung was established as a blockbuster director, with “The Tiger” following in the same path, in an action adventure of epic proportions, in a style much similar to Hollywood productions.
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The story takes place in Japanese-occupied Korea in 1925, and focuses on Chun Man-duk, a revered hunter in his 50’s, who lives with his teenage son, Seok, in a hut near Mount Jirisan. Following a terrible accident that involved his wife, Man-duk has retired his rifle and become a humble herb gatherer. However, as the Japanese are clearing the forests in the mountains, the Japanese governor-general Maezono is collecting tiger pelts as a hobby, and has tasked Military Officer Ryu with killing a legendary beast that inhabits the mountain, which is referred by the locals as the Mountain Lord. The one-eyed tiger killed scores of hunters and was involved in the aforementioned accident. Goo-gyeong, a former comrade of Man-duk who has also suffered due to the beast, is hunting it as the story begins and pressures him to help him. The veteran refuses repeatedly, though, but does not count on his son’s wishes.
Park Hoon-jung directs and pens a film with a great narrative, as he builds the tension gradually, transforming the movie from a drama involving the relationship of a father with his son, to an agonizing action thriller. The first aspect, however, is not neglected at all, as Park deals with the generation gap, and the issues created among fathers and sons when the latter wish for their offspring to follow in their footsteps. Furthermore, the concept presents a number of humorous moments, mostly deriving from Seok, with Sung Yoo-bin making a great job of portraying an aloof, but deeply unsatisfied and full of resolve teenager.
This aspect, along with an ecological message regarding the way nature retaliates when humans decide to go completely against it induce the film with a depth not so common in the category, and elevate it above the usual blockbusters.
This however, does not mean that the action part is put on the side. On the contrary, after a point, and as more of the tiger is revealed, gradually, in another great choice by Park, the action actually takes over, as the film transforms into a violent and agonizing thriller. In that aspect, Park chose to humanize the tiger, in a concept that, although quite unrealistic, seems to benefit both the action and the dramatic element in the movie, with the tactic finding its apogee in the finale.
Add to that a bit of melodrama (which could not be missing from a Korean blockbuster), the Japanese portrayed, once more, as truly despicable human beings, some side stories involving Seok and a girl, and you have the backbone of the movie. However, both of the first two aspects are toned down compared to other similar productions, in a tactic that benefits the film the most.
The SFX team, led by Choi Jae-cheon and Han Young-woo, has done a great job in the imaging and the movement of the tiger, which looks majestic, calculating and cunning, and terrifying at the same time. Lee Mo-gae’s cinematography is truly outstanding, as he takes advantage of the natural beauties of the mountain to present a plethora of images of allure, while the shots inside the forest help the action scenes to appear even more impressive. The same applies to Kim Chang-gu’s editing that retains a great pace, similar to the one of Hollywood productions, with the switch between fast cuts and slow motion benefitting the action the most.
Choi Min-sik is imposing as Man-duk, highlighting his abilities once more, as a man trying to go against his nature, and failing due to outside forces. Jung Man-sik is quite good as the “villain” in the film, a man whose thirst for revenge clouds his judgment and makes him put any kind of ethics to the side. Ren Osugi is also quite good as Maezono, another character whose desires have clouded his judgment, as plays his part with a fitting hyperbole.
“The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale” is a visually impressive and very entertaining action film, that fans of Hollywood blockbusters are bound to love.