Director: Jung Byung-gil
Cast: Kim Ok-vin, Shin Ha-kyun, Bang Sung-ju
Film genre: Action, Thriller
Cert 18, 123 mins, 2017
Distributed by Arrow
Exploding onto the screen in a kinetic flurry of hyper-stylised action, Director Jung Byung-gil (Confessions of Murder, Action Boys) thrusts his audience into the noir-tinged world of The Villainess, now arriving in the UK after its Cannes premiere.
Trained killer Sook-hee (Kim Ok-vin, Thirst) is the architect of an unforgettable opening sequence, shot in breathtaking first person point-of-view, as she breaks into a warehouse and lays waste to the multitude of thugs contained within. When the pregnant young woman eventually goes down, she’s picked up by the mysterious National Intelligence Service (NIS). Given the choice to join them or die, she reluctantly accepts a new identity and trains in order to complete a future assignment and eventually win freedom for herself and her daughter. Matters are further complicated by the feelings arising from the murder of her father, a past relationship with a gang-boss ex-lover and the tantalising chance at a happy future offered by an undercover agent with a mission to win her affections...
Jung Byung-gil infuses a tale containing many of the hallmarks of modern Korean thrillers with original action elements and an unflinching style that recalls Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy while also pointing towards the female-led narratives offered by Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita. Despite these nods to the past, the film manages to carve out its own stylish niche in the current cinematic landscape.
Whether the protagonist deserves the moniker bestowed by the film’s title is ultimately left for the audience to decide yet with its delirious indulgence in the excesses of South Korean action cinema, The Villainess offers a bold new take on the neo-noir genre.