This is how all love stories should end – not with a whimper, but with a sword fight to the death that takes you crashing out of a window and soaring down the side of a building as cut glass sprinkles around you like sharp snowflakes in a storm. This is the newest film from director Byung-gil Jung called The Villainess, and it not to be missed.
Hell hath no fury like a woman betrayed too many times, and Sook-hee is living proof of it. It all started when she was a little girl, and she watched her father being brutally murdered while she quietly hid under her bed. Quickly discovered, she was nearly assaulted and fileted herself when suddenly she was rescued by a kind stranger. Her life forever changed, Sook-hee set out on a life of vengeance, growing up as a trained assassin, and living only for two things: the quest for revenge, and the man who had stolen her heart. Together, she and her new partner in crime collected payments off of the bounties of bodies of bad men, fulfilling Sook-hee’s thirst for blood, and molding her into one of the deadliest killers to ever walk the globe.
It all seemed so perfect – this chance to turn her tale of tragedy into a thrilling account of triumph. She has lost her father, but gained a lover who would die for her – but at the same time, could fend off anyone who dare try. That is, until one horrible day, while she was on her honeymoon no less when she lost the man she loved forever and became enslaved in a secret agency wherein she was forced to become a killing machine for a new group of baddies – and set up for yet another doomed office romance.
The opening of this film is absolutely brilliant. Shot in the style of a first person POV long oner, all the audience can see are two mysterious black gloved hands, slicing and dicing their way through a warehouse and an army of men. Blood splatters wildly, limbs fly carelessly through the air, waves and waves of armed men pour into the frame, only to be swiftly skewered and reduced to just another casualty. No one is safe from this mystery assassin, and all who dare approach quickly regret their entrance. Deep red crimson paints the walls as the camera whips and pans to catch every moment in startlingly close proximity – it’s as if we, the audience, are the assassin, and no one can take us on.
It’s not until the killer’s head is smashed into a mirrored wall that the identity of the attacker is revealed – it is a woman, and she is smiling through blood soaked teeth. One tiny girl took all these massive men down, leaving dozens of bodies in her wake, and cannot be calmed until armed authority officials rush in and eventually seize her in the rain-soaked alleyway.
The Villainess has its issues, but holy shit is it badass. Clunky and confusing at times, some of the storyline is a bit hard to follow – who exactly killed her father? Why are they after he daughter? Why is it so important to trick Sook-hee into marrying a fellow assassin from the agency? – but the action scenes more than makeup for the messy bits, even if they are slightly weighed down by the romantic narrative. It slows down a bit in the middle, but it’s worth watching this one through to the end, just so you can see a lover’s quarrel escalate into a full on bloody brawl. I mean, a sword fight that takes place during a high-speed chase atop motorcycles zooming down a highway!? What more can you ask for in a movie? The Villainess has it all, including one of the fiercest lady killers in quite some time – a treat that feels long overdue. Vixen-led vengeance doesn’t get much more exciting than this.