Movie Review: “Project Wolf Hunting” is a Slaughterhouse at Sea

“Project Wolf Hunting” is “Con Air” on a cargo ship — psychopathic convicts being transported by sea. And there’s something even more monstrous on ice in the hold!

Boy, Hollywood’s going to have to put the work in to catch up with where Korean action cinema is these days.

Writer-director Kim Hongsun’s action epic is a “Captain Phillips” bloodbath, a straight-up splatter pic — that’s a slasher film that doesn’t know when enough is enough. Scene after scene is filled with convicts killing crew and cops, or cops killing convicts, or everybody being killed by Korea’s take on Mary Shelley’s most famous work.

It’s a wonder anybody can kill anybody, as the decks are so bathed in blood it’s hard to avoid those nasty slip-and-fall accidents while you’re lunging with a knife, swinging a sledgehammer or merely taking aim with an assault rifle.

Writer-director Kim Hongsun (“Traffickers”) just signed with a Hollywood agency, which will at least coordinate the proper spelling of his name so that IMDb doesn’t have a different “Kim” credited as screenwriter. He stages machine gun shoot-outs within the confines of the bridge, knife fights on every deck and a brawl in the engine room, where fuel oil and fuel oil lines lead the Filipino engineer to bellow, “You can’t shoot here! The ship will stop!”

TOOL fight!

The set-up — there was this agreement between Korea and the Philippines a few years back, an exchange of prison inmates, with Filipinos sent home to do their time on the islands and Korean criminals likewise sent “home.” A prologue shows how things can go wrong when you put hated criminals on a jet and have to walk them through an airport.

So the decision is made to rent space on the Frontier Titan, a cargo ship. Twenty “veteran detectives” and their chief (Dong-il Sung) will watch over the worst who got caught doing their worst in the Philippines, including a necrophiliac and assorted murderers, with Jong-du (Seo In-guk) the worst of the very worst, and a “celebrity” “red notice” killer (Jang Dong-yoon) in their ranks as well.

But we smell a rat the moment we see the shifty-eyed “doctor” hired at the last minute to join this three day sail. And there are other sketchy characters on board, along with openly abusive cops.Then there’s the amoral corporate creep (Jang Dong-yoon) and his crew that takes over the shipping company’s traffic-monitoring station back in Inchon.

Things are bound to go awfully, gruesomely wrong. And they do. A viewing tip? Don’t get too invested in any one character, or group of characters.

“If this isn’t hell,” the doctor grumbles in Korean with English subtitles, “I don’t know what is!”

The script works in Korea’s favorite nemesis, Japan, in some World War II flashbacks that don’t fold into the story seamlessly. Scenes don’t play by their own rules. That “Don’t shoot in here” warning falls on deaf ears, as there’s no warning psychopaths not to do something.

“Project Wolf Hunting” is a brutally efficient killing machine long before the supernatural twist stomps into the proceedings. That almost seems like a gimmick-too-far.

Only a couple of characters merit background sketches, and these explain and motivate their characters when the picture doesn’t really require that. A few red herrings offer clever distractions. But how many “villains” can one thriller stand?

Kim keeps the action going and the blood flowing through two hours of grisly, grim mayhem as the armed and murderous go at it in a “prison” from which there is no escape, only a chance to be chum for the sharks.

Rating: unrated, gruesomely violent, sex, nudity, profanity

Cast: Seo In-guk, Sung Dong-il, Jang Dong-yoon, Jung So-min, Park Ho-san

Credits: Scripted and directed by Kim Hongsun. A Well Go USA release.

Running time: 2:02

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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