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
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 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
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
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.
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
This is a film that is massively entertaining and well worth a watch.
Watch it now on Netflix.