Kill Boksson poster

South Korean cinema and action go together like strawberries and cream. 

Gil Bok-soon is a single mother who tells her troubled daughter that she works for an event company. The event company, MK Ent. that she works for is actually an agency that takes on contract killings. Boksoon is the top Assassin with a 100% success rate.

Hwang Jung-min in Kill Boksoon

Hwang Jung-min in Kill Boksoon

The film opens at night on a deserted bridge. A tattooed man, a South Korean Japanese-born Yakuza, played by the always brilliant, Hwang Jung-min wakes up to find a woman dressed like a nurse whom he recognises as being the famous killer Bok-soon, they then begin the first of many brilliantly choreographed action sequences that appear in the film.
It’s a top opening gambit scene that starts a journey for the audience that is both unexpected, inventive and highly enjoyable.

Jeon Do-yeon in Kill Boksoon

Jeon Do-yeon is Gil Bok-soon

With the recent release of John Wick 4, America has also shown that they are up there with the best of them when it comes to true martial arts cinema which is great news for fans of the genre. With JW4 (and the three-vious ones) having had a huge cinema release worldwide it is no surprise that it is doing really well at the box office and receiving a LOT of attention. Kill Boksoon is probably doing well in South Korea but the fact that Netflix acquired the film and is available ONLY on Netflix is both great and a great shame.
This film shares some assassinate DNA with the Wick franchise.

Why couldn’t I watch this at the cinema?
This is one of the problems with Netflix, they spend a ton of money on making or acquiring these films and deny the audience a chance to experience them as they should by sticking them straight onto their streaming site. One of their recent acquisitions, which was nominated for a bunch of awards, the war film All Quiet on the Western Front had a very limited cinema release that I unfortunately missed but at least it was available for a second. Living in Australia it can be difficult to find South Korean cinema on the big screen, although I am going to see Memories of Murder in a few weeks at the Golden Age cinema in Surry Hills and I did see Broker last year, but unless it makes ripples at Cannes or one of the festivals around the world it’s unlikely that it will make an appearance at the cinema. 
I guess I have to get my own screening room………

It works both ways though because the reach Netflix has is much greater than the traditional route and so the filmmakers get their films out to a potentially massive audience and ultimately that is what they want but Netflix should do what they did with Western Front, The Irishman and several others more.
Give us us cinema option.

Kim Si-a and Jeon Do-yeon

Kim Si-a and Jeon Do-yeon

What sets Gil Bok-soon apart from her peers is her ability to play out the contract like a chess maestra, always looking ahead to fulfil her means. She is a veritable virtuoso lead violin of death in an orchestra filled with jealous instruments competing with her.

Her relationship with her daughter is fraught with the usual miscommunications, they are constantly trying to connect but miss each other every time.
In this respect, Kill Boksoon shares some family dynamic DNA with the superb Oscar winner of 2023; Everything Everywhere All at Once as well as some cracking fight sequences.

Gil Bok-soon is played by the brilliant Jeon Do-yeon whom I first saw in the excellent Untold Scandal in 2003, which was based on the French novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and she also featured in last years Emergency Declaration (2021).

2003 was also the year that Park Chan-wook’s classic Oldboy was released as well as Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, Kim Jee-woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters, and Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter….and Spring. 
This was the year I began my journey into South Korean cinema. It was a good vintage and I was probably not the only non-South Korean cinema lover to step into this incredible cinematic world at this time.

Jeon Do-Yeon is fantastic in this film, she manages to convey the motherly confusion and desire to protect as well as the brutality that is required for her job.
She can fight you know.

Sol Kyung-gu and Jeon Do-yeon

Sol Kyung-gu and Jeon Do-yeon

The head of MK Ent. is Cha Min-kyu played as usual with depth and groundedness by Sol Kyung-gu who was excellent in The Book of Fish (2021) and was incredible in Memoir of a Murderer (2017). He had previously worked with the director of Kill Boksoon, Byun Sung-hyun in The Merciless (2017), which was great and well worth a look and Kingmaker (2021), which I haven’t seen yet.
His character in this film has a history with Bok-soon that causes jealousy with his sister, Cha Min-hee. played by Esom, who is an executive of the company and has the potential to make life very difficult for Bok-soon.

Bok-soon juggles her family life with her professional at times, with difficulty, constantly trying to keep many plates spinning whilst the world around her is conspiring to force them to fall and smash.

The film is a veritable who’s who of top South Korean character actors, with Lee Yeon playing a young and upcoming very talented trainee assassin, the company bosses played by Kim Sung-oh (The Merciless/Kingmaker), Gi Ju-bong (a great character actor who has worked a load with arthouse director Hong Sang-hoo), Kim Jun-bae, Lee Young-suk (The Book of Fish), Kim Yong-joon and Shin Kang Kyun. 

Kim Ki-cheon, Jang In-sub, Choi Byung-mo, Koo Gyo-hwan, Jeon Do-yoen and Park Kwang-jae

Kim Ki-cheon, Jang In-sub, Choi Byung-mo, Koo Gyo-hwan, Jeon Do-yoen and Park Kwang-jae.

Bok-soon’s colleagues and drinking buddies who also work for the company and hold her in the highest of regard played by Hoo Gyo-hwan (Peninsula), Choi Byung-mo (The Merciless/The Spy Gone North), Kim Ki-cheon (Veteran/The Wailing), Park Kwang-jae (The Merciless/Memoir of a Murderer) and Jang In-sub (A Hard Day/The Merciless), this group has a lot of fun playing together and provides some of the funnier scenes and an amazing fight scene. I like how the director Byun Sung-hyun uses a repertory of actors in his films, my favourite directors do this, Akira Kurosawa is a great example.
Kim Si-a is really good as Bok-soon’s daughter and they have some touching and heart-felt scenes together. Also worth a mention are her schoolfriends played by Lim Jae-in in her first film and Choi Hyung-joo (Hellbound).

I know that was a lot of names but they are all worth mentioning.
Sung-hyun directs them all with skill and brings out wonderful performances from them all.

Sol Kyung-gu and a bunch of Russian gangsters

Sol Kyung-gu and a bunch of Russian gangsters

This is a film that is massively entertaining and well worth a watch.

Watch it now on Netflix.

137 Mins.



“The result is never in question, just the path you take to get there.”

Set in New York in 1981, this masterpiece tells the story of Abel, a business-man in the oil industry trying to expand and grow his trade. Apparently 1981 was statistically the most dangerous time in the city and this is felt in the film.

There are many aspects of this film that I would like to discuss but that would give away too much of the narrative. This is an epic film with big themes, akin with some of the great stories from history.

J.C. Chandor writes and directs this near enough masterclass in story-telling, keeping the tension high and the pressure on our hero, Abel (pronounced Ah-Bell).

Brilliantly played by the man of the moment Oscar Isaac, he instills Abel with a moral fortitude rarely seen on screen. He is the epitome of right action and therein lies his challenges, working in a complicated, political world that doesn’t always play by the rules.

By his side is the hugely talented Jessica Chastain playing his wife and here she delivers a performance filled with danger, loyalty, strength and feminity. There is a touch of the Lady Macbeth’s in her work, subtly manipulating Abel in order to achieve her goals but at the same time being a rock for him.

There is a palpable sense of underlying danger that threatens to rear its ugly head at any time. It’s this unseen threat that really keeps the tension taut, helped in no small measure by the haunting soundtrack composed by Alex Ebert.

The incredibly gifted cinematographer, Bradford Young shows his skills with his beautifully constructed shots. I’d first noticed him when he shot Pariah and he recently shot Selma. He is a talent I will be looking out for.

There’s been a lot said about the seeming snub from the Oscars this year, when put into the mix of the nominated films it stands head and shoulders above most of them. This was attributed to its late release (late 2014). Chastain was nominated in other ceremonies and won several awards for her performance, rightly so, interestingly Oscar Isaac tied the award for best actor with Michael Keaton (Birdman) at the National Board of Review awards in the United States.

His performance is quiet, subtle and grounded in an otherworldly energy at times, that is up there with the great performances of the last year (along with Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, another overlooked, powerhouse achievement). Isaac brings to mind Al Pacino as Michael Corleone without the overt menace in his portrayal of Abed. David Oyelowo continues to show his skills as the district attorney who is investigating Abel’s company. Alessandro Nivola, who needs to be in more films, is as charming as the devil as one of Abel’s competitors, Peter Forente. The mighty Albert Brooks is Andrew Walsh, Abed’s consigliere. Jerry Adler (The Sopranos) is the man whom Abel is doing business with and he imbues his role with wisdom and fair play.
Special mention goes to Elyes Gabel, a British actor who is doing very well for himself, here delivering a performance filled with uncertainty and depth. His character is pivotal to the story and will leave you feeling sympathy for him.

There is an undercurrent of instability that permeates every shot. Taking its mood from the American films of the seventies, this has more than a whiff of The Godfather but never once feels like plagiarism, much more homage and being the best way to tell the story.

Chandor does it again, making a film that really should have got more attention, it will become a classic in the eyes of most cognoscenti and hopefully the rest of the cinema going public.

A most affecting film.

If you haven’t seen it, find it and watch; you won’t be disappointed.