Badland Hunters (2024) Movie Review – Netflix’s latest Don Lee flick fails to tell a story amidst epic action

Netflix’s latest Don Lee flick fails to tell a story amidst epic action

Can you imagine what the end of the world would look like? Will the massive sea devour humankind, occupying its rightful place as it eliminates the parasitic species of the Earth or will the Earth engulf all life in exasperation and level the score with the doings and undoings of humankind?

What choices would you make in the desert that once you called home where “kill or be killed” is the daily mantra for survival? Or rather, how far would you go to survive and at what cost? Such is the dilemma that Netflix’s recent Don Lee film presents to the arena of the dystopian genre.

Badland Hunters, Netflix’s highly anticipated post-apocalyptic action film, has finally dropped with a bang, quite literally at times. With its well-choreographed action sequences, the carnival of “mind-blowing” gore that features severed pieces of human head, cut with the precision of a butcher knife, and the ridiculousness of the “cold-blooded” Homo Sapien, Badland Hunters features it all.

The film presents a bleak picture of the desolate landscape of Seoul post the massive earthquake of Concrete Utopia. As opposed to the perspective of the apartment dwellers, Badland Hunters flips the narrative inside out. After the fall-out at the apartment in Concrete Utopia, it is nothing but a standing wall of concrete until it is discovered by the military which tries to build a refuge and install an aquifer in the area. Things are going smoothly until the arrival of our antagonist mad-scientist Yang Gi-su.

On the flip side of the coin, the film begins with Nam-san, a local “hunter” and his close associate Choi Ji-wan, a teenage boy of 18 years, fighting a bad CGI representation of a crocodile which is decapitated by Nam-san’s expert butcher knife. This image sets the tone for the rest of the flick as our heroes fight against absurdly mutated reptilian human figures.

We are met with a community of bus dwellers who barter the necessities, filter and drink the ever-so-muddy water and dream of a paradise called the apartment. Despite the lack of amenities, this community seems way better than that of the apartment dwellers of Concrete Utopia with Don Lee as Nam-san becoming the antithesis of Young-tak, a true guardian with no strings attached.

As a film that is the directorial debut of a celebrated martial arts director Heo Myung-haeng, Badland Hunters features some of the best choreographed action sequences – Don Lee is phenomenal as he charges into a narrow lobby effortlessly chopping off targets at the apartment as they come while An Ji-hye, who plays the special forces sergeant Eun-ho, makes our mouth drop with her smooth jabs and clean cuts.

However, the action sequences and mini doses of lacklustre humour are all the film has to offer.  The crux of the film is quite simple – fight the bad guy, and save the damsel in distress. This film clearly caters to a specific audience, one which revels in the adrenaline rush that the gore and the action sequences provide without the need for a cohesive storyline, character background or well-crafted dialogues, and the film serves exactly that. 

And so the film becomes a cheap knock-off and regurgitation of the zombie and science fiction genre with its B-movie dialogues and cinematography, poor scripting but some badass Don Lee action that saves it from total and complete annihilation. It still works as a popcorn worthy, one time watch if you prefer to hear skulls cracking or might we say, slashing.

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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