The Villainess is the movie Quentin Tarantino wanted Kill Bill to be. I don’t say that lightly as Kill Bill Vol. 1 is one of my all-time favorite films. But The Villainess is a more complete and satisfying film. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s the best revenge flick since the first John Wick either.
Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) goes on a revenge quest. That’s been a continual pattern in her life, but Chief Kwon (Seo-hyeong Kim) hopes to channel that rage into more productive pursuits — as a member of her secret spy agency. Sook-hee quickly excels in the role and taking out high profile targets. Not to impress Kwon, but to create a better life for her daughter. Sook-hee only has to serve for a decade and then she’s clear to resume a normal life.
Little does Sook-hee know that Kwon has eyes everywhere. And just when Sook-hee thinks she’s out, Kwon comes calling with another assignment. Naturally this complicates Sook-hee’s budding romance with her charming next door neighbor Hyun-soo (Jung Sung).
Director/co-writer Byung-gil Jung and co-writer Byeong-sik Jung make Villainess more than the standard revenge flick by fostering a real desire to see revenge carried out. Through the course of the two hours, they provide small tidbits to explain Sook-hee acquiring her particular set of skills and her reason for payback.
It sucked when John Wick lost his dog based on what it represented, but for Sook-hee, her life is all about loss. Just when it seems she’s got nothing left to lose, there’s another layer. And there’s no better coping method than introducing body to bullet and head to sword.
Byung-gil Jung uses a very tight shooting as if he’s following the action via Go Pro. That shortchanges some of the impressive fight choreography from a technical standpoint, but makes for a far more immersive action experience.
The opening act starts off like the climactic action showpiece of Kill Bill Vol. 1 shot in a POV format. But that’s not all as the battle transitions into a fight scene reminiscent of The Raid 2: Redemption. This would be the kind of breakneck sequence you’d find at the end of most action movies. With The Villainess, that’s just the appetizer. The film’s centerpiece action sequence on a busy highway is amazing.
Kim provides a nice range in her performance, which is helpful considering the various flashbacks. The end result may be the same, but Sook-hee has as intriguing arc as the coldblooded assassin now just trying to live for her daughter. The screenwriters suggest Sook-hee was always destined to follow a particular path and it’s only when she stops fighting it does she truly become free.
As impressive as the action is Byung-gil Jung establishes a terrific who do you trust tone. Even with the flashbacks, the story is easy enough to follow. The dialogue is simple enough there’s little strain in reading the subtitles.
The Villainess easily earns a slot as one of my favorite films of 2017. It’s anarchy mixed with a compelling script and spectacular over the top action.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Well Go USA