Don Lee continues what he does best in 'Badland Hunters'
The Korean film industry beats Hollywood when it comes to the action genre, Don Lee, the star of new Netflix film “Badland Hunters,” believes.
“In the later scenes of ‘Badland Hunters’ there are action scenes that involve actors hanging from wires that are very complex, and it would have taken four weeks to film such scenes in Hollywood, but we did it in two days,” Lee said during a group interview at a cafe in Jung District, central Seoul, on Thursday. “People from Hollywood are very surprised at how quickly and efficiently Korean filmmakers make action films.”
“Badland Hunters” revolves around Lee’s character of Namsan, who is a skilled hunter wielding a machete in a post-apocalyptic world that has been devastated by an earthquake. Alongside his partner Choi Ji-wan, Namsan forages wastelands for resources that members of his village rely on to survive. An unidentified gang kidnaps Suna, a girl from Namsan’s village who follows him around, and Namsan and fellow hunters discover a dark plot by a mad scientist.
The film, directed by Heo Myeong-haeng — who worked with Lee on the actor’s famed “The Outlaws” franchise as a martial arts director — climbed to the No. 1 spot for non-English language films on Netflix just three days after its Jan. 26 release. However, the film received negative reviews despite this achievement for its erratic plotline and somewhat two-dimensional characters.
“In the original story for ‘Badland Hunters’ we had more drama and plot development including the back stories of the main characters,” said Lee, who also participated in the overall production of the film. “But when we included the action scenes in earnest the entire film extended over three hours, so we cut out a lot of the dramatic storyline. We made the conscious decision to prioritize action over plot and restructure the film, because ‘Badland Hunters’ was from the very start meant to be shown on a streaming service platform — so high-level action was important.
“I hope that viewers approach the film as playing a game with lots of entertainment value,” said Lee.
Since the actor is famed for “The Outlaws” franchise — the third installment of which was one of only two films last year to break the 10 million mark in ticket sales, Lee pondered over whether to differentiate his character, Namsan, in “Badland Hunters” from the character from the franchise.
“I did consider coming up with an entirely new character for ‘Badland Hunters,’ since this film has a sci-fi element to it, but I decided to show a version of my character from ‘The Outlaws’ franchise simply set in an apocalyptic future,” said Lee. “I see that audiences who have seen ‘The Outlaws’ films would feel a kind of déjà vu. But I figured I can only act action characters for a limited amount of time before I get older, so I settled on showing people what I do best.”
Working with Heo after collaborating frequently with him as a martial arts director lent the process of filming “Badland Hunters” ease and at the same time made Lee want to work with Heo even more.
“I think that Heo is one of the best directors in the country, both as a martial arts director and an overall film director,” said Lee. “He has the best ability in coming up with action sequences that perfectly match the character and the story. I have always thought that Heo would do well as a director when I was working with him on action scenes, and wanted to be the one to offer him that position. I am very happy that the opportunity came with ‘Badland Hunters.’”
The signature machete and various other weapons that Namsan wields in “Badland Hunters” were designed specifically for the film and for Lee.
“We designed the weapons, including the machete that Namsan uses, for my build and character, making them twice as big,” said Lee. “I have actual experience using various kinds of guns and swords while I was in the United States.”
Lee also addressed the heightened interest in the next “The Outlaws” installment, “The Roundup: Punishment,” which is slated for theatrical release this April. The fourth installment has already been invited to the Berlin International Film Festival this year and is expected to continue the success of the previous films.
“We did a blind screening for ‘The Roundup: Punishment’ recently and had the best response out of all the films in the franchise so far,” said Lee. “The fourth installment is slightly heavier and more emotional than the previous ones. But we also didn’t let go of the comedic elements, which resulted in a very interesting film overall. I can’t wait for audiences to watch it.”
A sequel to “Badland Hunters” could also be possible, according to Lee, but nothing is concretely decided.
“A ‘Badland Hunters 2’ is certainly one of the many options for upcoming projects I am thinking of,” said Lee. “Other than that, most of my recent films have been action movies, but I also have a thriller genre work coming up and other projects that have wholly different tones. I understand that audiences have seen me a lot through ‘The Outlaws’ films, so I hope to come back with new and different characters in the future.”
To find out more about Don Lee, visit Celeb Confirmed!
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]