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“Badland Hunters” unleashed: Ma Dong-seok’s unconventional cinematic experience

“Badland Hunters” unleashed: Ma Dong-seok’s unconventional cinematic experience

While “Badland Hunters” is successful in hunting crocodiles, it seems to have failed in hunting the hearts of all viewers. It showcased the familiar action of Ma Dong-seok and created another “Ma Dong-seok genre” film, but apart from these strengths, “Badlands Hunters” failed to be discovered.

The Netflix movie “Badland Hunters” is an action blockbuster that depicts the final battle for survival fought by those living in a world turned into ruins, a lawless land where power reigns supreme.

Three years after the earthquake, Namsan (played by Ma Dong-seok) and Jiwan (played by Lee Jun-young) survive by hunting ruthlessly, obtaining scarce water and food. The world has truly become desolate, with only dust swirling in despair, but the people in the village continue to live by their own rules.

Sunah (played by Noh Jeong-eui), while living with her grandmother and relying on each other, is taken away by those claiming to be a volunteer group, promising a place that provides clean water and food. Although Namsan and Jiwan think it’s a good opportunity and send Sunah away, they accidentally discover the true identity of those who took Sunah and the doctor Yang Gi-soo (played by Lee Hee-joon) leading them. In response, the two embark on a journey to rescue Sunah.

Ma Dong-seok is such a unique actor that he is building his own “MCU” (Ma Dong-seok Cinematic Universe). What we see in “Badland Hunters” is exactly what we expected, the familiar Ma Dong-seok. Ma Dong-seok inevitably stands on the side of the weak, fiercely defeating the villains, and all we need to do is feel that ‘satisfaction.’ Namsan’s presence, reassuring in itself, with his unique humor, is the identity of “Badland Hunters”.

Starting with wielding a machete to hunt crocodiles, Ma Dong-seok’s evolved actions, from bare hands based on boxing to gunfights, unfold in “Badland Hunters”. Of course, Ma Dong-seok’s action alone is enjoyable, and it’s even more satisfying when there is a narrative in the action. In that sense, the story of “Badlands Hunters” is somewhat lacking, even too lacking. The main content is Namsan and Jiwan going to rescue Sunah, but due to insufficient explanations of the characters’ narratives and relationships, it’s challenging to deeply immerse oneself in the intense action. The structure of conflict with the villains and the resolution is also predictable.

However, “Badland Hunters” does not seem to have aimed to be a perfect movie from the beginning.

Ma Dong-seok acknowledges the criticism that the narrative of “Badland Hunters” is lacking, saying, “You can feel it enough.”

He admits, “I just hope people watch it like a game. Personally, I prefer movies where action is combined with the story rather than just action. But I think there is a meaning in movies that emphasize action like this. Originally, there were more detailed stories from each character’s past to connecting links, but as we worked on the scenario, it seemed like the movie would be over three hours. At the end of the consideration, we decided to omit it and focused more on making the action stand out, even if it was unfriendly.”

Whether Ma Dong-seok’s strategy worked or not, “Badland Hunters” achieved remarkable success. Just three days after its release, it topped Netflix’s global top 10 movies in the non-English category and ranked second overall, gaining enthusiastic responses from fans worldwide. Whether this is an expansion or limitation of the “Ma Dong-seok genre” is up to the audience’s evaluation.


Author Nat.O
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