Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. South Korea, 2017. Apeitda, Next Entertainment World. Screenplay by Byeong-sik Jung, Byung-gil Jung. Cinematography by Jung-hun Park. Music by Ja wan Koo. Production Design by Hee-jin Kim. Film Editing by Sun-Mi Heo. Cannes Film Festival 2017.
Pumped-up modern twist on La Femme Nikita opens with a superb Ok-bin Kim taking out an entire gang of drug dealers after they kill her husband. At the end of her murder spree she wakes up in a secret police training cell where she is given plastic surgery to change her features, trained in all manner of arts (from killing to cooking) and told that she must serve as an assassin for hire for a specified period of time before she can be set free. Sent out into the world with the toddler she was pregnant with when she went in, she moves into an apartment building, befriends her neighbour who she doesn’t know is a fellow agent in charge of supervising her every move and, on their wedding day, is made to perform an assignment with dire consequences. The target she spies through crosshairs as she stands in a bathroom decked out in a gorgeous wedding dress is a man from her past, and as things get more twisted and violent, she uncovers secrets that go all the way back to the traumatic episode of her childhood that made her such a great fighter to begin with. Exciting and action-packed, this thrilling film is held together by Kim in the lead, a highly charismatic and sympathetic performance that makes the film’s many excesses worth enduring. This one never feels like a tired old revenge tale, but the work it puts into being original and unpredictable ends up being somewhat overcooked: there’s only so many bends in the narrative’s road that can be turned before the surprises get tiring.