The Villainess (M18)
Starring Kim Ok-Vin, Shin Ha-Kyun. Bang Sung-Jun
Directed by Jung Byung-Gil
After the death of her mentor-cum-lover, a young assassin (Kim Ok-Vin) is recruited by a spy agency to be a covert operative. During her training, she catches the eye of an instructor (Bang Sung-Jun) who later becomes her handler without her knowledge.
Yikes. Doesn’t sound like a relationship that’ll end well.
Like the live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, it’s difficult to watch this revenge pic from Jung Byung-Gil (Confession of Murder) without rummaging through a mental check-list of where the individual parts of the movie came from (Nikita, Kill Bill, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Salt…). But this isn’t a derivative movie with no self to refer to: When the end credits roll, you won’t be able to stop talking about its insane, frenetic action sequences.
One key set-piece is the opening tussle — make sure you’re punctual — a breathless seven-minute brawl shot from the heroine’s POV. Another unforgettable one takes place on a speeding bus. All in all, there’s enough arterial spray to mistake this for a Jackson Pollock biopic.
The movie received a four-minute standing ovation after its Cannes premiere in May, which I’m guessing was for those mindblowing moments. In Korean with English subtitles. (***)