Directed by: Jung Byung-gil
Run time: 123 minutes
The Lowdown: The Villainess, a South Korean assassin’s revenge thriller, has two incredible fight sequences, one at the start of the movie, and another to kick off the rousing third act, that will honestly leave you slack-jawed and in disbelief at the complex orchestration of so much gorgeous chaos and bombastic action.
It’s as if writer-director Jung Byung-gil set out to deconstruct various styles of action filmmaking, and then create the definitive example of each style with resounding success.
However, the film, which tells the story of Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim, displaying considerable fighting chops, and a magnetic screen presence), a young girl trained from birth to be a lethal assassin, falters at times during several extended periods of family and relationship drama.
But when it works, The Villainess is impossible to look away from.
Byung-gil opens his film with a prolonged sequence shot POV-style from the assassin’s perspective. It’s a perfectly executed, thrilling example of how non-traditional cinematography can entirely change the way we, as viewers, absorb and experience and action film. And it easily surpasses Hardcore Henry, a film that was shot entirely POV-style, by side-stepping the limitations of this particular style to bask solely in its strengths.
The second sequence that wows comes after Sook-hee has realized that she was lied to and deceived by the people she trusted most, and she begins an epic march to where her government oppressors are holed up.
In 2008, director Timur Bekmambetov introduced American audiences to his kinetic style of action filmmaking with Wanted. Byung-gil ups the ante here by showcasing an exhilarating chase where Sook-hee is bearing down on a public transit bus from a motorcycle, and later by car, and finally while flying through the air propelled by her own momentum. There’s swordplay, gunplay, hand-to-hand combat and more, all expertly staged for maximum impact, until Sook-hee finally launches a car off a rooftop and into the heart of her enemy’s stronghold to start the climatic showdown.
The Villainess falls short of being an instant classic, but it positions Byung-gil as a major talent who is likely to continue improving in his quest to create the ultimate action masterpiece.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Considerable violence.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The government that trained her, then tried to control her.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Dismissed (The Orchard, 87 minutes, Unrated, VOD): Dismissed, the latest social thriller to consider what might happen if Person A decided to suddenly do everything imaginable to destroy Target B, thankfully plays against its more familiar tropes for much of its brief runtime, allowing director Benjamin Arfmann to deliver a surprisingly decent and genuinely unnerving movie.
In Dismissed, Dylan Sprouse (twin brother of Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse) plays Lucas Ward, a new transfer student with impeccable grades and the kind of relentless pursuit of perfection in any academic endeavor that he easily overshadows all of his classmates.
You know immediately that Lucas is simply too good to be true, but that doesn’t stop his idealistic English Literature teacher David Butler (Kent Osborne) from mooning over him initially, based on Lucas’ enthusiasm.
It isn’t until Lucas receives a “B+” on a class paper that all hell breaks loose. In danger of losing his perfect 4.0 grade-point-average, Lucas begins to target David for destruction, setting in motion a sequence of events that will culminate with an alleged inappropriate relationship with a troubled female student and a suicide.
Dismissed gets props for keeping its ambitions in check. It’s actually refreshing to think that a tech-savvy student might transform into an uber-villain simply due to receiving a hair less than an “A’ grade. That’s actually, sadly, believable in today’s drumbeat of school news that finds teachers and students often at odds.
Dismissed handles the misconduct allegations in a realistic manner, and the film also does a good job of showing and explaining what happened to make Lucas into the misguided teen monster that he’s become. It also allows for a nice extended cameo from Andy Bellefleur himself, Chris Bauer.
Attack of the Killer Doughnuts (Level 33 Entertainment, 98 minutes, Unrated, VOD): As preposterous horror-comedy concepts go, Attack of the Killer Doughnuts is actually not the most ridiculous thing that we’ve ever watched.
This is the kind of Full Moon Features-loving throwback to the quaint days of Puppet Master and Subspecies that doesn’t get made too much anymore. That it’s genuinely watchable and enjoyable is an unexpected delight.
As for the effects, which come as a result of an accidental chemical spill into the grease trap at a gourmet doughnut shop, they’re about as good as you might expect if you suddenly found yourself cornered by an angry cruller and a chocolate-dipped glaze doughnut with teeth.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIX
The Violent Years
Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth: Special Edition
Time to Die
My Journey Through French Cinema
Birth of the Dragon