I know you are all hyped up right now about the arrival of John Wick 4 in theaters, yet today I want to bring you the adventures of another killer in this spectacular South Korean action movie from 2022.
Instead of Keanu Reeves‘s iconic character, we have, in this case, Mr. Bang Ui-gang, also a retired hitman enjoying the much money earned from (other people’s) blood and living a high life in a big, fancy house.
Starting the merry-go-round of shooting and fighting is not the dramatic killing of his dog but instead the news his wife is about to go on vacation with a friend.
This friend has just gone through a painful separation from her husband, so to get her to relax, the hitman moreover must babysit Kim Yoon-ji, her teenage daughter.
Unfortunately, things go wrong from the first night, as the girl is kidnapped along with a friend by some peers who would like to force them into prostitution.
Fortunately, the killer tracks them down without trouble, knocking out the little thugs and bringing them home safely.
The next day, however, passing by the same place they were being held hostage, he notices discovers these boys he had only wounded have all been killed.
Suspicious of a corrupt policeman’s questions, he hurriedly returns home to find the criminals kidnapped Kim Yoon-ji again.
He then realizes the previous night’s episode was not an unfortunate coincidence, but someone wants precisely this girl.
So he begins to hunt one by one the many criminals in this large gang who are making teenage girls disappear all over South Korea and selling them to wealthy perverts.
However, behind them is a faceless name with great political leverage, besides a seemingly endless army of skilled and dangerous Russian mercenaries.
The Unstoppable South Korea’s Action Torrent
For those who do not immediately recognize these names, just think of such cinematic masterpieces as Parasite, Oldboy, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird.
Recently, the young Jae-Hoon Choi has also quietly appeared, whose career I will undoubtedly follow with great interest, especially if he continues to make captivating movies such as 2022’s The Killer.
The story offers an intriguing mix of thriller and drama, enhanced by spectacular and numerous action scenes where irresistible and never vulgar black humor is constantly present without burdening the viewer with unnecessary silliness.
Of course, it is imperative to make some concessions regarding realism as events unfold, just as in the famous John Wick, where many characters and situations are deliberately exaggerated.
However, the overwhelming pace leaves no time to dwell on any minor inconsistencies.
Jae-Hoon Choi knows how to keep the viewer glued to the screen without ever boring with pointless scenes, expertly dosing the steps of this pure action journey.
Indeed, every choice and consequence is specifically there to trigger new spectacular and adrenaline-filled confrontations.
Each character brings an element of surprise, ensuring the viewer always looks forward to the next hand-to-hand duel or gunfight.
The elegant style and bright colors are still reminiscent of John Wick. At the same time, the action sequences have those smooth and harmonious movements more typical of the Chinese hard-boiled flicks of John Woo or Tsui Hark.
In a nutshell, it is like watching an unusual dance, elegant and exhilarating, which makes me think of a classical ballet focused on death and destruction.
Amazing Fresh Faces from the East
Being a movie almost entirely focusing on action, what matters most is obviously the physical skill in the actors’ choreography.
However, consider the acting ability of these Korean faces you may not be familiar with, starting right with the protagonist Jang Hyuk.
At first, this hitman appears tired and bored, but in danger, he rekindles his determination and immediately returns to top form.
Both face-to-face or against a multitude of enemies, indeed, nothing can break his unyielding warrior essence.
With astonishing dexterity, the killer turns any weakness into a lethal weapon, with an almost endless arsenal of pistols, sniper rifles, swords, and knives, not to mention proving to be equally deadly with his bare hands.
However, Bang Ui-gang is not simply a ruthless and emotionless automaton. Still, it possesses a human and sensitive side emerging not through dialog but rather from a single flashback he constantly relives.
The young Lee Seo-young is captivating as the naive high school girl to rescue, initially unbearable but later revealing herself in the delicate complexity of her relationship with the killer.
Sadly wasted is the amusing Chae-Young Lee as the wife who, after a promising start, we watch disappear, returning only in a few scenes as a distant voice on the phone.
Regarding the other cast, they are just fodder for the killer, starting with the fierce Bruce Khan as the Russian hitman Yuri, the only one able to stand up against the protagonist head-on in the fights.
Equally good is Lee Seung-joon as the corrupt Detective Lee, in a less physical performance but one of the few characters who is not a violent sociopath.
A violence sublimated into the final villain with the face of Hong Seo-jun, the perverted judge for whom all the criminals in this story work.