Monday, February 20, 2023

A Wolf On The Prowl: Project Wolf Hunting (2023)

Project Wolf Hunting (Neugdaesanyang) (South Korea, 2023)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Seo In-Guk, Dong-Yoon Jang and Jung So-Min

And here I thought Ricky-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991) is the silliest, goriest action horror thriller I'll ever lay eyes on... 

After a fiasco back in 2017 in which a suicide bomber blew himself up and killed many at a publicly announced prison transport flight, the higher ups involved with an extradition deal between South Korea and the Philippines opted to try a different mode of transportation when it comes to transferring dangerous Korean criminals captured in the Philippines back to their country. This time, Frontier Titan, a seemingly normal cargo ship, will be used to escort an assorted batch of ruthless fugitives from Manila to Busan by sea, a three-day mission headed by hardened "fist-to-your-face" cop Seok-woo (Park Ho-san) and kept in check by an army of fellow police officers.

What these law enforcers didn't know, though, is that one of the inmates, vile murderer and rapist Jong-doo (Seo In-guk), arranged a job with his vicious underlings where they'll infiltrate Titan disguised as crewmates and smuggle in some high caliber weapons. It isn't too long then before the bloodshed begins as the criminals are freed and starts torturing and massacring as many cops as they could, all the while the remaining law enforcers who quickly learned of the grim situation fight back in hopes of still turning the tide to their favor.

Now all of this is just the first hour of this two hour long action horror epic and it's pretty much a gorier and sea-bound version of Con Air (1997) as a transport mission becomes a bloody war between heartless criminals and law abiding officers, with the former quickly taking the advantage of them outnumbering their captors, as well as mostly having the element of surprise and a well-planned sabotage working on their benefit. Gunfire of varying calibers are exchanged, heads are brained with nailguns and bolt cutters, brutal stabbings, hatchet hackings, it's all a visceral show of unrelenting violence leading up to what could have been a climactic showdown as Jong-doo's army of miscreants would come face to face with what remains of  seasoned cop Seok-woo's forces, but this is when the horror elements of Project Wolf Hunting (2023) comes into play.

You see, the whole escort mission is also being closely monitored by a shady organization who also arranged the Titan to carry a top secret cargo: an ancient bioweapon that was once a man, created all the way back in World War II when the Japanese army was experimenting with the creation of super soldiers. Codenamed "Alpha", this monster just had to pick that day to wake up from his drug-induced sedation and we're quickly treated to one heck of a killing spree as Alpha single handedly obliterated nearly all of the cops and criminals gathered in a brawl out. And by obliterated, I'm talking about people getting kicked across boiler rooms and bursting into bloody messes upon impact, limbs getting torn off to beat their owners dead, lots of throat rippings, chest stompings, head pulpings, it's everything one could have wished Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) was, especially once Alpha brutally dispatched our supposed "main bad" of the film and starts prowling the ship for remaining victims to beat down dead, all the while those who survived the killing spree so far have to stick together and figure out how to stop an undead bioweapon enhanced with the strength of five men, Predator (1987)-esque "thermovision" and the cunningness of a wolf.

From a criminal escort-gone-wrong gig to a ship-set scifi slasher, all done with a splatter film treatment of practical effects, 2.5 tons worth of fake blood and very little CGI, it is within these two acts that Project Wolf Hunting (2023) shines its bloody best as an exploitation piece where violence is the name of the game and deliver it does. Almost every minute of the film is dedicated to gore and splatter with every layout of the ship is used for the carnage and everyone and everything bound to be covered in blood and grue. It's honestly an outrageous feat of adrenaline infused, hardcore ultraviolence that mostly makes up for the film's less than noteworthy protagonists, lack of genuine scares and simple plotting, so those wanting to see a fulfilling character development out of its cavalcade of casts or a decent amount of scare factor might need to look elsewhere, but for those who find bliss in mindless entertainment centered on intense action and brutal slayings, this film is a thing of beauty.

The real big flaw of Project Wolf Hunting (2023), frankly, lies in its last act; without spoiling much, it introduced more enhanced superhumans into the plot, almost all the characters we've been following throughout the bloody affair are simply unceremoniously killed off and the film completely shifts its gear to a scifi action thriller route as bioweapons duke it out with fists, knives and gunfire ala Resident Evil movie sequel starring Milla Jovovich. In any other film, this would have been an okay turn but, after all of that build-up wherein normal humans struggle and fight to survive against an enemy that's seemingly impossible to stop, switching its focus to superpowered characters with personal vendettas and agendas simply doesn't have the same cathartic gut punch and, honestly, it wasted a great opportunity to bring a satisfyingly fulfilling final act to the table. Instead, all we get is multiple bite-sized flashbacks worth of info dump, an underwhelming villain and a so-so tragic hero beating the lights out of one another, leaving us in the end with a groaner of a twist reveal/cliffhanger combo doubling as sequel bait. It's all too overly ambitious, if I say so myself.

Still, as flawed as the finale was, I strongly recommend Project Wolf Hunting (2023) to anyone with a taste for action horror hybrids, especially ones that come with B-movie grade craziness and geysers of blood to satisfy the inner gorehound! A nonstop thrill ride of (literal) bloody proportions, tailor made for long nights of exploitation cinema and splatter movie runs!

1 male killed in suicide bombing
7 victims killed in suicide bombing
1 male knifed in the neck (flashback)
1 male seen murdered (flashback)
1 male seen murdered (flashback)
1 male brained with a nailgun
1 male shot on the head with a nailgun, beaten to death
1 male stabbed to death with a switchblade
1 male shot to death
1 male shot to death
1 male bashed on the head with boltcutters
1 male throat cut with a switchblade, stabbed to death
1 male repeatedly beaten with steel cuffs, hunting knife buried into his chest
1 male stabbed in the jaw with a hunting knife
1 male shot to death
2 males shot to death
1 female seen dead from knife wound (flashback)
1 male shot to death
1 male shot to death
1 male stabbed in the neck with a hunting knife
1 male hacked to death with a hatchet
1 male shot to death
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot to death
1 male kicked across a room, crushed on impact
1 male had his throat cut with  knife
1 male had his throat ripped off
1 male stomped on the back
1 male punched to death
2 males had their throats crushed
1 male scalp torn off, stomped on the chest
1 male elbowed, brained against a gas tank
2 males shot to death
1 male had his face pulped with a punch
1 male shot to death
1 male bashed headless with a sledgehammer
1 male had his head crushed
1 male found with a ripped throat
1 male killed offscreen
1 female had her throat ripped off
1 male had his head stepped on, crushed
1 male punched across a room, head bashed against a table
1 female slashed across the face with a hunting knife, bled to death
1 male had his legs sliced in half with a hunting knife, chest stomped on
1 female pinned to a wall with a hunting knife to the neck
1 male had his chest punched open
1 male beaten to death with his own severed arm
1 male had his throat crushed (flashback)
1 female brained against a table (flashback)
1 female bashed with a skull (flashback)
1 male bashed with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained to death with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained to death with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained to death with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained to death with a skull (flashback)
1 male brained with a skull (flashback)
1 male shot on the head (flashback)
1 male repeatedly stomped on, killed in elevator crash
1 male kicked on the head, neck broken
1 female shot on the head
1 female shot to death
1 male had his neck broken
1 male shot on the head
1 male expires from an experiment (flashback)
A number of victims seen dead from experiments (flashback)
1 male pushed unto a steel pipe, neck impaled (flashback)
1 male gutted offcamera
1 male crushed with a metal door
1 male shot to death
1 male shot to death
1 male knifed in the neck
1 male brained to death with a rifle
1 male beaten to death
1 male shot to death
1 male shot to death
1 male shot to death
1 male had his throat cut with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed and slashed to death with a hunting knife
Total: 87+

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