Title: The Villainess (Fantasia 2017 review)

Also known as:
Ak-Nyeo (Original title)

Year: 2017

Genre: Action / Drama

Language: Korean

Runtime: 129 min

Director: Byung-gil Jung

Writer: Byung-gil Jung & Byeong-sik Jung

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6777338/


Plot:
Sook-hee is seeking revenge for her past, but is taken into custody. They give her the offer of fighting for them as an assassin. In return, she will be free again in 10 years. Between her past trauma and her new deal, things are not quite as easy.

Our thoughts:
Violent and bleak action-thrillers is not a new thing in South Korea, and director Byung-gil Jung is not a stranger to it himself with "Confession of Murder" in his filmography. There is no doubt that we've seen some extraordinary South Korean films in the past, and "The Villainess" is a movie that will fit right in with its story of murder, revenge and betrayal.

At a young age, Sook-hee witnesses the death of her father, and grows up with only one thing in mind: revenge. After a battle, she is taken into custody and is offered to join a program to become an even more trained assassin. If she works for them for 10 years, she will be set free. At the same time, she finds out about being pregnant, and sees this as a chance to be able to take care of her child in the future. During these 10 years, she'll be living a, from the outside, seemingly normal life, all while being a spy and assassin for the agency.

Despite being a movie with a heavy focus on action, I have decided to keep the plot description vague as I personally found more weight in the quiet moments and wouldn't want to spoil it all. The story quickly pulls you in with a compelling lead character who is fighting a tragic past through revenge. Her story becomes even more intriguing when a child and a love interest are part of the equation. It would be easy for this movie to be absolutely mindless action, but as we've seen in South Korean films of this kind before, there is usually a damn solid story to back it up. That's absolutely the case with "The Villainess", despite not being the most original revenge story. In the lead role we see Ok-bin Kim, who impressed us all in Chan-wook Park's "Thirst", and she is perfectly capable of carrying this revenge action on her shoulders.

The action is stylized with impressive choreography and fluid camera moments. On one hand I applaud their creativity in the fighting scenes, but I can't deny that they end up a bit too over-the-top. The movie starts with a complete POV action sequence which is cool in theory, but it doesn't take long until the hidden cuts (to simulate a long shot) become incredibly jarring. The camera is forced to constantly go behind character's backs and slam into doors just so that they can hide cuts. This is common practice for this kind of sequence, as you would know whether you are watching Hitchcock's "Rope", a forgotten classic like "Running Time", a modern success as "Birdman", or an episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". The issue is that "The Villainess" does it so often in the opening minutes alone that it becomes annoying. And yes, they do it in every single fighting scene, not just the POV ones. There is no magic there anymore, it's just ugly ways of hiding the cuts (and I don't even think they needed to hide them to begin with).

Oddly enough I thought "The Villainess" was a good movie. Yes, it's an action movie where the action often annoyed me, but beyond that there is a lot to enjoy here. The fighting is violent and creative, the story is touching, and Ok-bin Kim is both cool and stunning as the vengeful Sook-hee. I'm always open to watching new South Korean action-thrillers, and "The Villainess" is not a bad addition to the lot. This is a movie for fans of South Korean movies such as the Vengeance trilogy, "The Chaser", "The Man From Nowhere" and "A Bittersweet Life". If you miss this at Fantasia International Film Festival 2017 you only have to wait until August 25th for the Well Go USA release!


Positive things:
- Meaningful story behind all the action.
- Ok-bin Kim is badass!
- Violent and creative.
Negative things:
- The hidden cuts during fighting scenes get annoying.
- It's not the most original revenge story out there.

Rating:
Gore: 3/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 3.5/5
Effects: 3.5/5
Comedy: 0.5/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:
Ronny

 




 

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