It’s only March, and the action in 2023 has already been amplified to level 100. Marvel has been dominating the genre for the latter half of the last decade, but recently a lot of new players have entered the game with new franchises, top-quality choreography, and interesting storylines that have driven audiences to theaters. Of course, the best example is the “John Wick” franchise, which has surpassed expectations and brought a new generation delight for hand-to-hand combat and bulletproof tailor-made couture suits. In the last three months alone, we have seen large-scale action movies from Bollywood (Pathaan), Vietnam (Furies), Hollywood with chapter 4 of the aforementioned John Wick, and now South Korea has joined with the highly anticipated “Kill Boksoon.” Notably, this one comes closest to “John Wick” in style, plot, and even the couture suits (which are a perfect reason to watch this film). As a fan of Hallyu entertainment, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by “Kill Boksoon.” As an action film with a linear plot line, it runs far too long and would have benefited from edits to make it more crisp and impactful.
“Kill Boksoon” follows Gil Boksoon, a stone-cold assassin living the Hannah Montana lifestyle. She’s a caring mother by day and a contract killer for the company MK Enterprise by night. Along with MK Enterprise, there are a dozen other contract killer companies, and for them to function together, there are some important rules to follow. Unsurprisingly, these rules are made by MK Enterprise’s chairperson, essentially monopolizing the industry. It is almost time for Boksoon’s contract renewal, and things start to shake a little bit, leaving Boksoon in a kill-or-be-killed position. Veteran actress Jeon Do Yeon goes from a peppy athlete who has never been loved in “Crash Course in Romance” to a lethal killer in “Kill Boksoon.” She is a delight to watch in the action sequences, showcasing why she’s still at the top of her game. Esom is greatly underutilized as the younger sister of chairman Cha-Min Kyu, being villainized over envy in a very cliche manner. As Boksoon’s biggest enemy, her villainy sneaks up from the back rather slowly, making it all seem quite pointless. The intern Kim Young-ji stands out for a little while when she is on screen and makes an excellent, earnest assassin. For us to see that Boksoon is a perfectionist, a lot of the action sequences are preceded by a worst-case scenario analysis that is way too long and becomes slightly boring after a certain point. Instead, the special cameo by popular actor Lee Jae Wook could’ve been well utilized by showing some more flashbacks between Boksoon and Cha-Min Kyu. The flashback scene, in particular, is highly indicative of the film being dramatic, surprising, and thrilling all at once.
Cinematography And Choreography
For an action film, the audience goes in expecting to see a lot of gore and combat, but this needs to be presented in a unique and mesmerizing manner with aesthetics in mind. “Kill Boksoon” nails the action with unique camera movements and slow-motion techniques in a typical Korean beauty shot that is very satisfying to watch. The blood spatters are a little over the top, but they don’t look out of place when the scene is set in slow motion for added effects. In the first action sequence of the film, where Boksoon fights a Japanese-Korean Yakuza member, there is an entire sequence behind a bridge, which makes for a unique action arrangement. Another standout is in the Ramyeon shop, where the assassins of multiple companies attack Boksoon for a chance to join MK. The intern and Boksoon are fighting off three men simultaneously while being on two sides of a wall. The camera goes around them in a 360-degree motion, making for a fascinating and thrilling watch without knowing what’s happening on the other side of the wall. The final act of the film is like a visual orchestra, making great use of the cloning effect. It only helps that the suit that Boksoon is wearing is so perfectly tailored that what you might be worried about is it getting blood-stained. Visually, this film is stunning.
Plot And Newness
The plot is rather predictable, and some of the emotional scenes seem superficial because of how abrupt they are. Keeping that in mind, the idea of a lesbian daughter is a cultural shock, with an already taboo subplot being that Boksoon is a single mother. There are always consequences to your actions, and for Boksoon, it might be a like mother, like daughter scenario, the one that she fears the most as the result of her assassin ways. The sexual tension between brother and sister gives one the ick and could’ve been omitted for something else entirely. As an action film, Kill Boksoon could’ve been fantastic if it tried to be more like “John Wick” and sticking to the made-up world of assassin companies and contract killings. Instead, it brings in real-world problems, such as an estranged mother-daughter relationship, which somehow doesn’t work in this particular case. Not to say that it shouldn’t have been there at all; being a butt-kicking killer while also raising a daughter is fantastic, but to choose to put yourself in a bad position because of that daughter’s changing viewpoints of the world is a little too far for such a stone-hearted character.
“Kill Boksoon” has the makings of an excellent action franchise but falls short because of the plot that pushes the “actions” of the protagonist. Unlike “John Wick’s” made-up universe, Boksoon’s feet seem to be in both a made-up world and reality simultaneously. Still, it is an enjoyable film on its own if you have the energy for two hours and 20 minutes. It may have been my high expectations and excitement that have dominated my views on “Kill Boksoon.” But that will not take away from the experience of watching Boksoon’s solo show, which happens to be extremely entertaining despite the debatable plot points. For this reason alone, I recommend “Kill Boksoon.” The costumes and sets are fantastic, as expected. There is a ton of profanity, some nudity and sex, and of course, brutal violence with a lot of bloodshed. I like to say that Koreans like to make their movies like their bibimbap, a mix of genres, drama, sadness, and action all wrapped up in a beautiful, colorful dish, and in that regard, “Kill Boksoon” delivers. Unlike its inspiration, “John Wick,” which is painted in dread (although Chapter 4 was highly charged with emotion), “Kill Boksoon” gives equal opportunity to family drama and knife throwing. I’d give “Kill Boksoon” three out of five knives and an extra half point for Boksoon’s maroon velvet suit, which is lethal just as she is.