The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil, 2017)

What's it about? Trained assassin Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin) is recruited to work for a covert government agency. Forced into more training and at first driven by revenge, she soon strives for a peaceful life with her daughter, only for her past to come back to haunt her. People die. Lots of people die.

Is it any good? The bravura opening sequence is breath-taking slice of action reminiscent of John Woo's early Hong Kong films. Initially filmed POV like a first-person shooter video-game, then cleverly shifting perspective to whirl around the carnage, it's an astonishing how-did-they-do-that set-piece. And there's plenty more to follow as several similar, superbly choreographed set-pieces see Sook-hee mete out punishment to scores of unlucky extras who get in her way. It's insanely violent stuff, but it's enormous fun. However, it does take time to breathe in the mid-section as we see Sook-hee released back into the real world, but here it is less successful in its attempt to layer some emotional content onto all the bloodshed. There's a potentially interesting, but ultimately undercooked subplot which sees her romanced by a dashing suitor, who she doesn't realise is actually her covert handler. Plus the time-shifting presentation of her backstory is also a bit too convoluted for its own good and loses focus at times. As a result, some developments which should be devastating are quickly forgotten as we barrel headlong into the next action sequence. But who cares about all that touchy-feely stuff when we can watch Sook-hee fight in and out of buildings, or atop a speeding motorcycle, or inside AND outside a wildly careering bus in her blood-splattered revengesploitation rampage. Get a flavour of it with the trailer below.

Anything else I should know? Well, how DID they do that? It comes as no surprise to learn director Jung Byung-gil trained as a stuntman and is well versed in the tricks of the action cinema trade. Using as little CGI as possible, he employed body-cams, fish-eye lenses, drones, miniature cameras and smart editing to create the dizzying action. Here's an interview with him in which he also admits it's more of a homage to classic French actioner La Femme Nikita, rather than John Woo or Kill Bill to which it has been also compared. Expect Hollywood to snap him up for a watered-down version.

What does the Fonz think? La Femme Sook-Hee

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