Thursday, September 17, 2020

#2,517. The Villainess (2017)




The opening sequence of director Byung-gil Jung’s The Villainess is a straight-up adrenaline rush; the lead character, Sook Hee (Ok-bin Kim), is hopping mad, and has taken the fight to an entire building full of baddies (the opening moments are shot from her perspective, as if we were watching one of those first-person videogames). From hallway to hallway, and room to room, she battles guards, scientists, and a few skilled martial artists, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. It’s one crazy skirmish after another, and even when the point-of-view shifts from first to third person, this opening never loses an ounce of energy. 

Once the battle is over, Sook Hee, who was trained from an early age by the underworld to be a world-class fighter, is taken into police custody. But instead of throwing her in jail, the authorities turn Sook Hee over to the National Intelligence Service, which immediately “recruits” her into their ranks. 

Promised that she would eventually gain her freedom, Sook Hee follows orders well - carrying out one mission after another - until she is given a top-priority assignment. With a new identity, she moves into an apartment complex, and even becomes romantically involved with her neighbor Hyun-Soo (Jun Sung). But as she awaits more details about the mission, Sook Hee begins to realize that not everyone around her can be trusted, and that her past may have caught up with her in a big, big way. 

Ok-bin Kim delivers a strong performance as the film’s lead, handling both the physical aspects of the role (she’s a convincing badass) as well as the emotional (Sook Hee is shy and demure when she first meets Hyun Soo, and is the perfect mother to her young child, who is permitted to stay with her as she carries out her assignment). But what makes The Villainess such an extraordinary motion picture are the action scenes, from the tense-as-hell opening to Sook-Hee’s first mission (a violent swordfight that transforms into a pulse-pounding motorcycle chase through some city streets), all leading to a final 15 minutes that you’ll have to see to believe. 

South Korea has turned out its share of excellent horror films in recent years (Bedevilled, The Wailing, Train to Busan, etc), and with The Villainess they’ve given the world an amazing action flick. Combining aspects of La Femme Nikita with the first Kill Bill and infusing it with a hell of a lot of style, The Villainess is one movie you won’t want to miss. 
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 - Buy it and watch it over and over










1 comment:

Andrew Sydlik said...

Wow, Doc, great to see you still writing reviews, and about a movie I’d never even heard of! I love South Korean films, so after this glowing review, I immediately added it to my watchlist. Thanks for continuing to spread the word about great cinema!