The Film (3/5)
All hell breaks loose, when a mysterious woman named Sook-Hee (Ok-Bin Kim) kills a building full of trained murderers. Instead of being put to death, the young one is saved because she is secretly having a child, and her government can use her. Trained as an assassin, she is now one of their top killers. But her new life soon starts to spilt at the corners when an old flame reenters her life.
THE VILLAINESS, is one of the hit movies of the season in Korea. A throwback to John Woo, 90’s spy films, and of course an entry to rival JOHN WICK as one of the new gold standards in action cinema. But while the movie is gaining notice as a new action sensation, the film itself leaves a lot to be desired.
With his previous movie being, 2012’s CONFESSION OF MURDER, Byung-gil Jung has quickly shown a trained eye for epic scope and scenes. But while watching the movie, I felt like it didn’t pass surface level. On a tonal level, the story bounces back in forth to various refences to older and recent movies. The biggest point of comparison comes with Luc Besson’s NIKITA (1990). Whole scenes are repeats of that film’s money shots. Such as a vacation that quickly turns into a sniper hit from a bathroom. The film felt like a remix sandwich like some of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Speaking of Tarantino, the film also slavery remakes chunks of KILL BILL VOL 1 (2003), including a scene where a little girl hides under a bed while her father is brutally murdered.
As for the rest of the story, while following the basic revenge plot of many female assassin films, THE VILLAINESS jumps from each shallow setting to the next. The movaties or actions of the villains is not clearly explained and as a viewer I was left confused. Any character development was near destroyed by the various attempts of shock twists, like the death of a little girl that just left a sick taste in my mouth. Like the films of Tarantino, the movie looks great, the performances are cool, and spotting references is part of the fun. But I never felt connected to the characters. Which makes the twists even bigger duds.
On the bright side, as an action movie, the set pieces are impressive. The third act has a motorcycle chase that looks nearly impossible to film, yet it’s pulled off. Like HARDCORE HENRY, The POV action work, is shaky but intense. As for classic thrills there is enough sword and gun fights to make John Woo Happy.
While not a bad film, THE VILLAINESS suffers from its style over heart. The whole film looks great but feels forced. A toss up of a film, that I hope improves with future viewers.
Well Go USA delivers the goods again, with this shiny and impressive transfer. For audio, we get two main tracks. First up is the 5.1 Korean, which has a smooth sound mix. All the explosions and effects sound clear as day. There’s no issues or pops. There is an English Dubbed 5.1 track, which is serviceable, but again I prefer the original language. English subtitles are included for the Korean track.
The 1080p HD picture, is a sight to behold. Every frame is as pretty as a painting. The only hiccups are some blur during some of the POV action set pieces. While the movie is problematic, this transfer sure is spotless.
Extras are limited to a making of and trailer gallery.
Sadly, THE VILLAINESS didn’t quite do it for me. The action set pieces are impressive, but the tone and story are too mean spirited to set it apart from its inspirations. Not bad, just disappointing. Toss up.