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Review: Kill Boksoon. The fix feminist action-lovers need

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Byun Sing-hyun.
  • Producers: Mo Il-Yeong.
  • Screenplay by: Byun Sing-hyun.
  • Cinematographer: Hyung Rae Cho.
  • Art Direction: Ah Rum Han.

Synopsis: a contract killer decides to make some changes in her life, and one of her superiors sees this as a way to get rid of her.

Shotgun Commentary: action film with strong Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) vibes, a boss of a protagonist, and incredible fight scenes.

Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) on a job. Source: Gil Bok-soon (Byun Sing-hyun, 2023).

Review

Kill Boksoon follows the most renowned assassin in Korea, who also happens to be a mother, in a journey of evolution and self discovery. This change is provoked by her daughter, who inadvertently teaches her a new way to think and do things, and most of all, the importance of staying true to herself. While she keeps her occupation secret from her, they find themselves closer than ever by parallel circumstances that force them to get to know each other better and learn to communicate.

The endless circle of life and death

The parallelism between being a mother, giver of life, caring and nurturing, and a ruthless killer, crafty and cruel, is one of the biggest appeals of the film. While normally children in this type of movie are completely unnecessary, Kill Boksoon presents the exception.

The teenager’s storyline doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it actually becomes truly relevant for the main plot. Additionally, Bok-soon’s daughter Gil Jae Yeong (Kim Si-Ah) is not an annoying character. She has the intensity and recklessness of any teenager, but she is not rude or over the top, which makes her character very realistic and easy to empathise with.

The good

As for Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon), she is all charisma. As a protective mother who puts up with anything and anyone for the good of her daughter, she is responsible, smart and commands respect. But as a trained killer she is the absolute boss regardless of the way you look at it. She has principles and doesn’t let anyone put her down. She is very well aware of her abilities and has no problem talking about them or showing them when necessary, but without needless bragging.

Gil Bok-soon on a meeting with other mums.
Source: Gil Bok-soon (Byun Sing-hyun, 2023).

This last part of her personality is specially admirable considering her gender. This type of character, when portrayed as women, tend to be very braggy and, while they still look cool, their mouthing off is sometimes their reason for shame at certain parts of the film. On the opposite extreme, there is the social teaching that women should never talk about their achievements to avoid making men feel lesser or uncomfortable. Women are very used to putting themselves down and selling their achievements short, and the way Bok-soon knows her worth and talks about it so unapologetically is a breath of fresh air from with all women can learn.

The bad

On the other side of the spectrum, there is Cha Min Hee (Esom), the loathsome little sister of Bok-soon’s boss and, by extension, her superior. Everything she does is annoying, even her English voice is punchable. She is obsessed with her brother to a semi-incestuous point. So, since her brother is very much in love with Gil Bok-soon, she hates her and tries to destroy her at every turn. Cha Min Lee is completely irredeemable, and Esom does an amazing job making the audiences hate her with every fibre of their being.

The irrelevant

Even though Cha Min Kyu is a better killer than Gil Bok-soon, her boss, and the leader of the assassins’ creed (pun unintended), he is sort of irrelevant. The female characters take all the weight of the story. Their creation as well as their portrayal is so incredible that you don’t even notice about the complete insignificance of the male roles until you stop to think about it.

Cha Min Hee (Esom) and Cha Min Kyu (Sol Kyung-gu).
Source: Gil Bok-soon (Byun Sing-hyun, 2023).

These character dynamics are strange coming from a male director and writer, so it is absolutely commendable of Byun Sung-hyun to do this so effortlessly and with so much talent. It is work like this that truly gives hope to the future of cinema in terms of equal representation regardless of gender.

Killer artistry

Lastly, the fight scenes and general aesthetic of the film are also a strong reason to watch it. The special effects are beautiful, and the violence of the fights is almost confused with a gorgeous dance that the characters perform for the enjoyment of the audience. The camera work is perfectly connected to the effects, the story and the message, enhancing the attraction of the content and keeping the viewers hypnotised with it.

All in all, Kill Boksoon is a film that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoyed Kill Bill: Vol. 2 but wished it was a little bit less male-gazed. It is a beautiful and violent piece with which all action lovers and feminists will have a great time.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Never underestimate the destructive power of love.
  • Everyone has a weakness.
  • Acknowledging your worth is nothing to be ashamed of.
Gil Bok-soon. Source: Gil Bok-soon (Byun Sing-hyun, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched Kill Boksoon? Did you like it better or worse than Kill Bill? What is your favourite fictional female assassin? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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