If you mixed the style and strong female lead of Kill Bill with the sheer badassery and dark world of John Wick, you’d probably end up with something like The Villainess: An amazingly well-choreographed and ridiculously violent action-thriller with an intriguing story and an awesome protagonist.
The Villainess follows the life of Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin), a woman trained in the art of killing from an early age after the murder of her father. Sook-hee becomes a human weapon focused on finding the man responsible for her father’s death, and that’s BEFORE she’s given a job at an assassin agency. However, things get complicated for Sook-hee and her mission when she runs into someone from her past. While that sounds pretty cliché, The Villainess has a few genuine surprises and twists that keep it interesting. As an action junkie, I was surprised how often things played out differently than I’d expected. I’ve gotten good at predicting how things play out in action flicks, but The Villainess kept me guessing most of the time.
While the story is strong, it’s the utterly insane action sequences that really blew my mind. With a combination of point-of-view camera shots (like Hardcore Henry, but less jumpy), over the shoulder angles, and scenes where the camera constantly moved around, the action always felt fresh and different. It also doesn’t hurt that The Villainess has some of the best fight choreography in the past few years. The gunplay felt tight and efficient, the motorcycle/car chases fast and frantic, and the close quarters combat was just plain brutal. Although every fight was marvelous, the best ones have to be the one in the opening and the motorcycle chase/sword fight (which is as crazy and badass as it sounds). My jaw was kind of sore from all the dropping it did by the end.
One thing that made the action even better was knowing the drive and backstory of its anti-heroine. The more you know about a protagonist, the more you root for them, and the more gratifying their victories feel. Ok-bin did a great job getting me to care about Sook-hee during the flashback sequences, much more than most action heroes in recent memory. For example: I really wanted the guys who killed John Wick’s dog dead, but I couldn’t really see John as anything other than a murder machine because we knew very little about him. Sook-hee has her share of tragedy too, but the difference is that we see much more of it and how it affects her. Plus, she has a personality that allowed me to see her as a human being.
Okay, I know I shouldn’t be mentioning other movies, but I only brought up John Wick because it’s THE action movie I’ve been comparing all others to since 2014. Nothing has come close to the high bar it set until now. I still think John Wick is an amazing movie, which is why it shouldn’t be taken lightly when I say, “The Villainess is even better.”
If you’re a fan of the action genre, do yourself a favor and see The Villainess. Thanks to incredible camera work, great choreography, and an unbelievably badass anti-heroine, it’s a stupendous action flick, and one of my favorite films this year.