The first few minutes of Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess are some of the most violent I have watched for a long-time. Immediately you are thrown into a bombardment of headshots, knife shots and fistfights – made all the more intense by the first person POV camerawork. Usually I am not the biggest fan of first person perspective, more often than not it just ends up being mildly cheesy or unnecessary. However on this occasion it not only made the violence all the more brutal but also successfully set the frenetic pace that would continue throughout the film.
Although the P.O.V does eventually change when we are quite literally “smashed” out of first and into a third person shot (a move that is far cleverer that I have made it seem here) – the cinematography throughout The Villainess maintains it’s off the wall nature. During fight scenes it is shot not dis-similarly to a video game, with the camera panning around and weaving through the fights in a way that made me wish I could see the camera-operators at work. The experimental nature of The Villainess’ camerawork in my opinion makes it one of the best action films I have seen for a very long time – it’s different; something that needs to be cherished in a genre full of carbon copies and tired concepts.
Plot-wise I was left pleasantly surprised – I went into the film expecting the usual “assassin gets a conscience and goes rogue” story that has been done to death. Instead what we’re given is a tale of deceit and revenge, with the protagonist Sook-hee’s (Kim Ok-bin) past coming back to haunt her in a pretty unexpected way. There is also a very interesting take on the training/recruitment process, involving ballerina’s and cooking classes which made for interesting viewing as well and provided a brief respite from the violence.
Overall, The Villainess manages to be thrilling, emotional and exceptionally well acted, with a main character who could take down her equally un-killable genre mate Jason Bourne in the blink of an eye – all while asking us “is there ever such a thing as too many axes?”
By Megan Gibb
Megan is a drop out from Cambridge. She is starting her second attempt at university this year and is hoping to avoid disaster this time around. Most of her time is spent either reading or binge-playing video games. Don’t talk to her about End of Watch or Night Flight as she still hasn’t emotionally recovered from them, and probably never will. Her favourite films are Drive, The Handmaiden, Ghost World and Mad Max: Fury Road.