‘Kill Boksoon’ (2023) Review: Impressive Assassins and Family Drama
Byun Sung-hyun’s Kill Boksoon follows an assassin and a concerned mother whose life is at stake because the corporation she works for turns its back on her. It’s an action-packed movie which delivers complex characters and exhilarating performances with an emotional aspect that doesn’t quite stick to the landing.
Gil Boksoon (Jeon Do-yeon) is the top professional contract killer part of the underground conglomerate called MK Ent. In the morning, she drops her teenage daughter, Jae-young (Kim Si-a), at school and poses as an events planner; at night, she is sent out to assassinate notorious yakuza and other dangerous killers and fulfil her contracts. Boksoon wants to settle down and leave her life behind to take care of her teenage daughter. Jae-young deals with her problems, too. She gets into trouble at her private school and almost gets exposed for developing feelings with another female student. Boksoon tries to balance her daughter’s rebellious nature while also dealing with a complicated mission that risks her life and true identity.
Kill Boksoon’s worldbuilding is unlike any other movie ever seen before. The film introduces flashbacks of the MK Ent boss and chairman, Cha Min-kyu (Sul Kyung-gu), explaining the organisation’s rules. To keep things under control inside the empire, Min-kyu demands that his contract killers never accept ‘freelance killings’ if employed under his company. If they do, it’s direct defiance of their code of honour. Boksoon is set as an example for her leadership and killing streaks. In many action sequences, Boksoon imagines many scenarios in which she might get killed.
The movie has other notable action sequences in set pieces, including she kills her fellow assassins inside a greasy restaurant. The gang uses everything from the chairs to chopsticks to the pans to fight against each other. Byun shoots this scene in fast-paced, long takes to heighten the movie’s intense action sequences. It’s probably one of the most well-choreographed sequences in the film. Also, it shows the intense work involved in creating an exciting movie.
While Kill Boksoon has killer sequences, one aspect sets the movie backwards. Byun tries to show that his protagonist balances her work and takes care of her teenage daughter; however, the plot doesn’t feel quite fulfilled. The director points out that looking after a teenage daughter is a lot of work. Boksoon tries to cope with Jea-young acting out in school and the fear that she might follow in her mother’s footsteps. Jae-young’s actions have grave consequences. Yet, Boksoon doesn’t want to repeat the punishments by her father to her daughter. The movie lacks an emotional aspect, even though it explores the complex relationship between the mother and daughter.
What’s incredibly frustrating about watching South Korean movies, or any other non-English language film in general, is that it gets compared to Hollywood films. South Korean movies are currently dominating cinema. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave show how it captures the audience using incredible storylines. Byun’s film has been compared to Hollywood movies, such as the John Wick franchise for Boksoon’s killing spree and Tarantino’s films because of the movie’s action sequences. Comparing these Hollywood movies to Kill Boksoon diminishes the success due to the emotionally captivating and genre-bending storylines in South Korean films.
Kill Boksoon shows a fair amount of emotional vulnerability within its characters, even though Byun could have explored their relationship’s complexities further. The final act has plenty of fun martial art sequences, but it takes time to get to the last fight. With exhilarating performances and a strong performance by Jeon, she never fails to deliver. Throughout the film, Byun focuses on Jeon’s character’s journey to bring supercharged and exciting moments to the big screen.