The Villainess (4 stars)

The Villainess

Ferocious South Korean revenge thriller featuring a kick-ass heroine, from director Jung Byung-gil

So much blood is spilt in The Villainess that you might want to consider wearing protective clothing. Jung Byung-gil's ferocious revenge thriller takes no prisoners as our kick-ass heroine sees off a small army of opponents. A blizzard of action sequences are staged with such energy and commitment that they take the breath away. The pleasure of the film is the way that they serve the story rather than being the reason for its existence.

Trained as a merciless killer then recruited by the Korean Intelligence Agency, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin) has all the attributes of a Jason Bourne as she undergoes the gruelling training that will make her one of their top operatives. Years later, she is sent into the field, posing as a single mother and professional actress. Charming new neighbour Hyun-soo (Sung Joon) is also an undercover agent who has a mission to win her heart and become part of her cover.

The plot is busy as it stretches across a series of flashbacks, tracing Sook-hee's early life, the murder of her father and her enduring hunger to avenge his death. Elaborate but engaging, it creates enough emotional connections to balance all the mayhem when Jung unleashes his team of stunt performers and fight choreographers. Everything is staged for maximum impact with the camera right in the thick of the action, creating the sensation that if you don't move out of the way you are liable to become collateral damage. A motorbike chase cum sword fight and a bravura climax on a speeding bus are sensational.

Filled with casual betrayals, divided loyalties and enough story to spawn a franchise, The Villainess roars along like a runaway train and is a brilliant showcase for Kim, who kicks sand in the face of any Hollywood bad girl.

Selected release from Fri 15 Sep.

The Villainess

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • South Korea
  • 2h 9min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Jung Byung-gil
  • Cast: Kim Ok-Bin, Sung Joon
  • UK release: 15 September 2017

Merciless killer Sook-hee (Kim) is recruited by Korean intelligence to be a top operative, and seeks revenge on the murderer of her father. The breathtaking and bloody action sequences serve the story, and Kim is brilliantly showcased as an ass-kicking heroine who deserves her own franchise.