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The Weekend Binge: Boar Hunt / Hunted

At only four episodes, 2022's Boar Hunt is a rural thriller that boldly spins on three axes: a mystery that refuses to let up until the end, an incredible cast of veteran actors, and gorgeous cinematography that heightens the darkness of this already tragic tale.

Episodes: 4

Available in: Amazon Prime and Viki in some territories

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Boar Hunt" / "Hunted" (photo of Park Ho-san)

The Plot

A wild boar has been roaming around and destroying farmers’ crops for some time now. Fed up and angry, a handful of poor provincial farmers finally decide to hunt it down. While roving the side of the mountain, the farmer Young-soo (Park Ho-san, Would You Like a Cup of Coffee?) spots a moving figure in the bushes and fires his shotgun. But instead of a boar's squeal, he hears something else. Did he shoot the boar? Or did he shoot something else? Too frightened to find out, he quickly returns to the village, hoping to dismiss the mishap.

Young-soo — who had just won the lottery days before the hunt — now discovers that his teenage son and his friend have disappeared. The police and the entire village search for the boys high and low, to no avail.

Days into the search, Young-soo receives a call demanding half a million dollars as a ransom for his son. He surmises that the caller must be someone who knows about his lotto winnings and is intent on draining them dry. But in a small village where everyone knows and cares for everyone else, who would be insidious enough to both extort his money and harm his son? And why would they do so?

What kind of secrets do people keep in a place where everyone claims to keep no secrets from one another?

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Boar Hunt" / "Hunted" k-drama
Good fences make good neighbors. Or do they?

Our Review

"Rural crime” is a niche genre that Korean cinema frequently excels, reaching its zenith with Bong Joon-ho’s critically-lauded Memories of Murder (2003). While this category of films regularly employs conventions from Hollywood crime stories, most Korean film directors like Bong remain ambivalent to the usual formula, opting instead to embrace tones and directions usually found in European art films.

In director Song Yeon-hwa's capable hands (her filmography includes the hit period drama The Red Sleeve), Boar Hunt continues this tradition of ambivalence towards Hollywood crime cliches, opting instead to inject a steady stream of "Korean reality" in telling a Korean crime story. The result is a show that proves that the usual K-cinema plotline can also work when using K-drama conventions.

In fact, Boar Hunt's strongest suit — among an impressive plethora of strong suits — is it keeps to its four-hour format and works quickly to move the story without wallowing in sentimental territory. Like a gun loaded with only a handful of bullets, the show intelligently fires scene after meaningful scene with nearly zero filler — a rare feat in the K-drama format and an immensely satisfying improvement on the usual 16-episode drudgery.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Boar Hunt" / "Hunted" k-drama
The descent into madness

Boar Hunt’s remarkable use of unreliable narrators — a device often deployed unsuccessfully by other K-crime shows — makes an already intriguing show even more complicated. When Young-soo insists that he shot an “animal,” what is he not telling us? When the village elder accuses Young-soo and his friends of arson, is she telling the truth, or are they all rants from a bitter old woman plagued with Alzheimer’s? With nearly everyone in the village saying one thing but meaning another, we grow more and more distrustful of this community.

Into this bubbling cauldron of hypocrisy and lies are uglier truths about the human condition: that the ordinary man is capable of the most extraordinary acts of violence. That our strongest hatred is rooted in a twisted sense of love. And that while we claim that we want our friends to succeed, we actually find a perverse sense of pleasure in watching them writhe and suffer. Boar Hunt is a drama that would make Russian writers like Chekhov and Dostoevsky proud.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Boar Hunt" / "Hunted" k-drama
Happier times

Boar Hunt also wisely trades celebrity and the usual big-name “oppas” for an outstanding veteran cast who deserve all the awards that have been handed to them. Award-winning actors Park Ho-san and Kim Soo-jin (Anna) as the parents of the missing son are both pitiable and infuriating, while veteran movie star Ye Soo-jung (Insider) is perfectly cast as an unlikeable village elder trying to find her grandson. The show’s lack of the usual “pretty young things” may not have given it the media mileage it needed, but the decision to cast a deeply talented ensemble of veterans elevates the show and ensures that the plot and their performances take precedence over showbiz frivolity.

Ultimately, Boar Hunt stands out by refusing to be modern. It delivers the dark velvety thrills of a small-town murder mystery in a sparing visual style drenched in cramped and claustrophobic misery, much like fine Nordic noir. There is no Seoullite sheen or fancy police technology that K-crime stories are usually so hellbent on showcasing. Instead, screenwriter Jo Beom-gi leans heavily into dusty farm life and relies on the destructive force of human nature to fuel his plot’s twists and turns. He also eschews sophisticated psychopaths and fancy forensic laboratories for hapless police work and an infuriating sense of pettiness that roils beneath the facade of a small town.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Boar Hunt" / "Hunted" k-drama
The simple life is not so simple.

This show peers into the darkest corners of idyllic village life and finds nothing less than long-simmering jealousy, tribalism, and the slaughter of innocence. But Boar Hunt refuses to pathologize. This is life, it says. This is what happens to friends who love each other, who live close to each other, and who want to grow old together. This complex emotional landscape is the show’s cruelly insightful masterstroke and makes no bones about revealing man as the complicated beast that he is.

While rural K-dramas like Boar Hunt may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the rare pleasure of watching a murder mystery smartly unravel in only four episodes makes it worth trying over the weekend.

Available on Amazon Prime and Viki in some territories

Stream if rural crime dramas are up your alley or if you want to give them a try with minimal time investment.

Skip if you're looking for something modern or something that has a younger cast. There are no "oppas" here.

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