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Post-apocalypse Netflix original ‘Badland Hunters’ packed with Don Lee action

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Jan. 16, 2024 - 14:52

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“Badland Hunters” director Heo Myung-haeng (left) and lead actor Don Lee -- also known as Ma Dong-seok -- pose for a photo during a press conference for Netflix original “Badland Hunters” in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) “Badland Hunters” director Heo Myung-haeng (left) and lead actor Don Lee -- also known as Ma Dong-seok -- pose for a photo during a press conference for Netflix original “Badland Hunters” in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

A household name in South Korea for crime-action franchise flicks, actor Don Lee – also known as Ma Dong-seok here – has joined hands with his long-time partner, martial arts director Heo Myung-haeng, for Netflix original film “Badland Hunters." The dystopian action film, which opens on Jan. 26, is Heo’s directorial debut film.

Set in a post-earthquake Seoul where society has completely collapsed, fearless hunter Nam-san (Lee) goes out to rescue Soo-na (Roh Jeong-eui), a teenager who has been kidnapped by Yang Gi-soo (Lee Hee-joon), a doctor who survived the earthquake. “D.P” and “Mask Girl” villain star Lee Jun-young plays Nam-san’s partner, Ji-wan. Ahn Ji-hye plays special forces sergeant Eun-ho, who helps Nam-san and Ji-wan.

Heo, who has designed the action sequences of many hit action flicks including “The Roundup” franchise, “Hunt,” “New World” and “I Saw the Devil,” said he focused on designing fantasy-like, unprecedented action sequences.

“I tried to design the action sequences based on the main keyword of the film – survival -- more than anything else,” Heo told reporters during a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday.

He stressed that “Badland Hunters” has nothing to do with popular post-apocalypse flick “Concrete Utopia” (2023), contrary to speculations that the two works share the same worldview.

“Badland Hunters” (Netflix) “Badland Hunters” (Netflix)

Don Lee said while many of his previous action works reflect real-world situations, “Badland Hunters” involves a lot of unprecedented “K-action” sequences. Ma and Heo worked together to make the film from screenplay to production.

“While many of my actions involve a lot of boxing-inspired punches, ‘Badland Hunters’ contains a mix of various actions derived from jiu-jitsu -- something that is only possible amid an apocalypse setting and fantasy-like worldview,” Ma told reporters.

As long-time partners in action flicks, Ma expressed deep trust in Heo.

“While many think that designing action is just about making moves, it requires a lot of understanding of emotion and drama. I’m sure that Heo already knows a lot about movie directing in that context. So I wanted him to debut as a director,” he said, adding that he also suggested fellow actor Lee Hee-joon to join the project after the two worked together in “The Unjust” (2010).

Lee Jun-young, who worked with Heo, who directed the martial arts in “Brave Citizen,” said he wanted to support director Heo by starring in the film.

“The Roundup: Punishment” (ABO Entertainment) “The Roundup: Punishment” (ABO Entertainment)

Meanwhile, director Heo’s other upcoming film that also stars Ma, “The Roundup: Punishment,” was invited to the 74th Berlin International Film Festival’s Special Gala, it was announced, Tuesday. It is the first time for a Korean action series to be invited to a gala screening.

Berlinale Special Gala sheds light on works that have both public and critical appeal. Berlinale programmer Mark Peranson described “The Roundup: Punishment” as a movie that has a “harmony of action and comedy.” The 74th Berlinale takes place from Feb. 15 to 25.

“The Roundup: Punishment,” the fourth installment of Korea’s mega-hit action franchise, revolves around detective Ma Seok-do (Don Lee) who returns as a “monster cop” to take down former special forces agent Baek Chang-gi (Kim Moo-yul) and genius IT company CEO Jang Dong-chul (Lee Dong-hwi), by joining forces with former gang leader Jang Yi-soo (Park Ji-hwan). “The Roundup: Punishment” is slated for a May release.