THE STORY – At work, she’s a renowned assassin. At home, she’s a single mom to a teenage girl. Killing is easy. It’s parenting that’s the hard part.
THE CAST – Jeon Do-yeon, Sol Kyung-gu, Esom, Koo Kyo-hwan & Kim Si-a
THE TEAM – Sung-hyun Byun (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 137 Minutes
There’s nothing like watching a movie about someone really good at their job. In the past, we’ve watched the world’s most adept pilot pull off a miracle in “Sully,” a French rat makes his culinary dreams come true in “Ratatouille,” and in “Kill Boksoon,” our main character is a hit woman revered by her peers for her unparalleled abilities in the field of contracted murder. But while her fighting skills are top-notch, she’s having trouble balancing her violent job with her responsibilities as a mother. “Assassin struggles to raise her teenage daughter” may sound like a strange sitcom concept, but “Kill Boksoon” is an entertaining and well-directed film that uses impressively staged violence and surprising humor to tell its story effectively.
It’s hard not to immediately be reminded of the “John Wick” series while watching this film. And indeed, the most laudatory elements of that American action franchise are also what “Kill Boksoon” excels at the most, namely the thrilling fight sequences and intriguing world-building. Smartly, the film spreads the fight sequences out, with the characters engaging in spectacular combat only when the story calls for it. The choreography of the violence is unendingly clever, and the camera’s dexterity perfectly matches the performers’ abilities. The cinematography in the fight scenes is notably different than in the calmer portions of the film, with the camera flipping, gliding, and traveling around and with the actors as they perform their stunts. The change in filming style only adds to the visceral nature of the fights.
The underground world the killer characters inhabit is never fully laid out in one big expository moment. Instead, the audience picks up on details casually dropped in conversation in a way that feels like we’re getting a sneaky look into a forbidden realm. The assassins and their bosses use a specific vernacular that relies on innuendo and double-talk to convey secret meaning. For example, assigned killings are referred to as “shows.” The cold, business-like way these murders are discussed is further underlined by the unaffected, darkly humorous tone of the characters’ voices. In particular, Cha Min-hee (Esom), the director of the organization of hired killers, is especially sardonic, with Esom delivering her lines with perfect cynicism.
Jeon is a captivating central presence as Gil Boksoon. The nature of her duplicitous character allows her to play a wide range of emotions, often using a confused or plaintive front to cover a more knowing, assured internal reality. The way she confidently brings her character to life helps the audience to follow along with her complicated double life.
While the actors are able to portray their complex characters and the secretive lives they live, the film at times struggles to balance all the disparate storylines that frequently feel crammed into the runtime. “Kill Boksoon” covers a lot, from family problems to workplace issues, along with various histories, backstories, and side plots. Sometimes, it almost feels like whiplash to go from the well-constructed fight sequences to the dense, winding dialogue scenes. It’s the kind of movie so full of ideas that it’s almost counteractively best for the audience to ride the film’s energy.
“Kill Boksoon” is a fun and impressive journey into a fascinating underworld. It’s impossible to describe its visual direction without using the word “slick,” and the fight scenes alone are sure to appease even the most jaded action junkie.