“The Villainess” (악녀) – 2017 BiFan Film Review

Kim Ok-bin as Sook-hee in "The Villainess." (still courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival)
Kim Ok-bin as Sook-hee in “The Villainess.” (still courtesy of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival)

In a word, “The Villainess” (악녀) is nuts.  In two words, absolutely nuts.  Beginning with an extended fight scene in a dingy hallway reminiscent of Gareth Evans’ “The Raid,” a female assassin acting solo – evident as the sequence is initially shot from her perspective with no edits – is finally caught by the authorities after eliminating all the men in the building.  That blood-soaked rampage is just the start for Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin), who is ordered to undergo plastic surgery, assume a new identity, and train as an agent for the South Korean intelligence agency under the facade of a normal citizen.  Further complicating matters?  She’s pregnant.

As the violence escalates, the story careens between Sook-hee’s present and past, revealing the reason for her revenge-filled scorn: the death of her father, which occurred before her very eyes when she was a child.  The constant flashbacks are a bit much for the viewer, and the emotionally damaged Sook-hee herself, to process, particularly when her past (in the form of ex-husband and mentor Lee Joong-sang (Shin Ha-kyun)) and present (new husband Jung Hyun-soo (Sung Joon, “Pluto”)) intersect.  But the story merely serves the catalyst for Sook-hee’s growing pile of victims, each fight dripping with more hate than the previous one.  Kim sinks her teeth – or rather, her knife – into an exhausting lead role of a female killing machine who occasionally shows emotional cracks. “The Villainess” sets itself up for a sequel, but it will be tough to top the outrageous original.

“The Villainess” screens at the 2017 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival on July 22 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are available at bifan.kr.