HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Tiger
HTS Overall Score:80
Hoon-jung Park is a fairly new director/writer in the Asian film scene, but he is one to certainly pay attention to. His last 3 films have all been good (The Showdown) to great (New World) and I was more than eager to check out his third feature film behind the director’s chair in the form of “The Tiger” (which was originally subtitled “The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale”, but then simply shortened for the U.S. release for some reason). Magnificently filmed, and exquisitely detailed story wise, the incredibly dense thriller of an old hunter who has to come back for one final challenge is ever so slightly marred by being just a little bit TOO dense in material. The parts that are good are good, and there are some moments of INCREDIBLE power, especially in the third act, but I can’t deny the slow and steady pace that feels just a little bit TOO slow for the first 2/3 of the movie.
Korea has been occupied by Japanese forces back during their war of conquest, and those people who are still free are only allowed weapons for the purpose of hunting. The Japanese forces have commanded that the last of the native hunters wipe out the magnificent tiger population that has been attacking the foreign troops. The mission has gone as planned, except for one final tiger. The Lord of the mountain. A beast weighing in at over 850 lbs and one of the most cunning creatures left on Jirisan Mountain. Ever attempt to capture or kill the beast ends up with even more men dead, as the tiger is driven by rage after watching his mate and cubs slaughtered. With each step forward accompanied by several steps back, and massive loss of life, the only hope may come in the form of Chun Man-duk (Min-sik Choi), an aging hunter who lives up in the mountains with his son, Seok.
Having lost his wife due to negligence during a previous hunt of the beast, Man-duk is vehemently against hunting the beast once more, much to the chagrin of Seok, who desperately wants to capture the tiger for the reward money so that he can marry his girlfriend and move down from the mountain. Man-duk may have had his wish of quiet solitude, but Seok decides to join the hunting party, drawing the aging hunter out of retirement once more. Bringing him face to face with the pain of the past, and causing a confrontation that only he can resolve.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76945[/img]The core story of “The Tiger” is profoundly intricate and well mapped out across the 2 hour and 20 minute drama. Little bits of the backstory are doled out through the film, explaining the reason WHY Man-duk is so adamant about staying out of the fight. We get the drift very early on that his wife was claimed during a confrontation, but the how and the why of that confrontation isn’t revealed until much later in the movie. The first act of the movie is Hoon-junk Park setting up the final confrontation, while the 2nd act incites the actual incident once Seok goes into the woods hunting for the tiger, only to return home in worse shape than he left, which naturally brings Man-duk out of retirement.
However, the third act is really where the film comes together and moves from a slow paced drama that has really gone on too long, to a film where you can’t take your eyes off of the screen. In fact, with about 25 minutes taken out of the first two acts and “The Tiger” would have moved up from a very good film to an absolutely amazing film in my opinion. The first few acts tend to be very dialog intensive and, in my opinion, show too much backstory and hesitation on Man-duk’s part. By the hour and a half point I was really wondering just WHERE the story was going, until the very final act when the Japanese send troops into the mountain region and the final pieces of the puzzle come together. That final 40 minute section happens to be nearly flawless, rendering a story of beauty and pain, hate and love, conflict and symbiotic relationship between the hunter and the hunted. Both of them are intrinsically entwined to each other, and the emotional power that went along with each of their loss of family, loss of self, and subsequence loss of will to live for anything besides revenge had me tearing up in the final 10 minutes.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76953[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray from independent studio, Well Go USA, looks absolutely magnificent, with a variety of different textures and color changes to the digitally shot film, and luscious amount of fine detail. Colors range from dull and lightly desaturated in some of the town shots, to beautifully layered imagery that shines with blues and whites deep in the snowy forest. You can see the cracked and chapped skin on Man-duk’s craggy hands, and the light wispy hint of grew that traces its way throughout his man bun, contrasted with the rough and nasty sewing stitches that adorn his roughhewn clothing. The CGI for the tigers sometimes is a bit wonky, and the same can be said for the wolves, but that is rather par for the course with most Asian films, as their budget for CGI tends to be very limited compared to the United States. Black levels are deep and inky, showing off shadowy details lit by torches in the middle of the forest, of the individual leaves in the Tiger’s den as Man-duk crouches over a dead cub.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76961[/img]The Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as impressive as the video encode, with an engaging track that shows off the wonderful outdoor soundscape of the Jirisan Mountain environment. The vocals are crisp and locked up front where they are supposed to be, but the wild mountain air is alive with the crunching of footsteps on snow covered rocks, or the roar of the giant one eyed beast as it vents his frustration into the wilds. LFE is deep and punishing at times, adding weight to the rifle rounds, as well as making the giant beast a force to be reckoned with. It’s never all-encompassing or over bearing, but fades into the background until a flurry of activity pulls it to the foreground (think the detonations used to drive the beast out near the end). Surround activity shows off some amazing directional queues as the tiger rips through the chasers halfway through the movie, and the ambient forest noises create for a very well rounded mix.
• Original Theatrical Trailer
“The Tiger” is a magnificently acted and wonderfully shot film that really only suffers from Hoon-jung Park’s inability to cut out of a few elements of the story that make the film a bit overstuffed at times. The intensity and intertwined stories of man and beast don’t demonize or lionize either one. We don’t have man who is all evil, fighting the magnificent tiger, and we don’t have a vicious beast that must be taken out for the safety of all mankind. Ironically it’s a bit of both and none of the above at the same time. Watching the story unfold is a mesmerizing (at times) experience that makes me really eager to see anything else Hoon-Jung Park puts out in the upcoming years. The audio and video for the release are simply fantastic, and despite the anemic extras I still definitely recommend watching it.
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Man-sik Jeong, Hong-pa Kim
Directed by: Hoon-jung Park
Written by: Hoon-jung Park
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 140 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 9th 2016
Buy The Tiger On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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