Eureka Entertainment’s new Blu-ray release of the 2015 South Korean period drama, The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale is recommended viewing to those of you who were gripped by the Oscar-winning The Revenant, in a truly epic tale of man vs nature at a time of significant change in the South-East Asian country.
Renowned hunter Man-duk (Choi Min-Sik, who appeared in the original version of Old Boy) has hung up his rifle and picks herbs amongst the cherished mountains he lives in with his son Seok (Sung You-bin). It’s a tranquil, if challenging, experience and he is recovering from the stress of a family tragedy years earlier. However, his existence is about to be compounded and compromised by the on-going presence of a 400ft tiger that roams the mountain forest and range and known to the locals as ‘The Mountain Lord’.
His fellow men appreciate and respect his privacy, but the stakes involving the killing of a tiger mean profit and hunger relief, something not lost on his son, who has a hunter’s heart and a desire to go after the ultimate prize. An ongoing conflict between the local Koreans and the arrival of Japanese soldiers, themselves interested in the mysterious animal inhabitant of the area for their own material gain, also makes Man-duk question his place in the world – and whether or not he has the desire to pick up that weapon for one last hunt…
Although at times the film overreaches its intention (it is about twenty minutes too long), it has to be commended for not being another martial arts or horror yarn with extreme violence, a staple of the territory. The classification rating will certainly deny younger viewers a chance to experience and enjoy an admittedly mildly gory adventure movie, which has echoes of the Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves, as there is some virtue and morality in the characters here, and there is sufficient spectacle throughout (the action sequences are excitingly staged, reminding one of the likes of Cliffhanger, First Blood and Southern Comfort in tone).
The CGI-rendered tiger is a masterstroke and the experts have scored highly as well with this, helping to reaffirm the potential of storytelling through visual effects. The director wisely keeps visual sightings of the tiger to a minimum and relies more on the human element in the story, the conflict of whether these hunters and soldiers should pursue their goal of stopping the animal for fortune or glory.
It’s a pity that this particular Blu-ray release doesn’t come with any major special features about how the film was produced, limited to a couple of trailers. Still, perhaps that is a blessing in disguise, as it will help the viewer concentrate on a purely cinematic experience and reflect on what the film represents as a complete work.
THE TIGER - AN OLD HUNTER'S TALE / CERT: / DIRECTOR: HOO-JUNG PARK / SCREENPLAY: HOO-JUNG PARK / STARRING: MIN-SIK CHOI, MAN-SIK JEONG, HONG-PA KIM / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW