Kill Boksoon (2023) ‘Netflix’ Movie Review: Kill Boksoon is as impressive as action films come. The South Korean movie was released today on Netflix, and it seems like the streaming giants finally have a worthy showstopper on their hands. They have flirted with mediocrity for a while now with lackluster offerings in the action genre. Kill Boksoon is set to change the talking points – for now. Right from its first moments, the film sets the expectations of what to expect: a darkly comical and ironic tone reminiscent of Lady Vengeance without the distinguishing Park Chan-wook hallmark. One could also anticipate stunningly captured action set pieces and full-blown entertainment. But what Kill Boksoon surprises us with is its cold and heightened blow of emotion and narrative that you don’t really see coming until the end.
This Korean movie introduces us to a legendary assassin; Gil “Kill” Boksoon (Jeon Do-yeon). She works for a private contract-killing company, M. Kent. It is headed by a charismatic leader and retired professional Chairman, Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu). He runs the company with his deviant sister, Director Cha Min-hee (Esom), who does not take a liking to Boksoon like her brother. Boksoon is a single mother living with Jae-young, her teenage daughter. After she purposely botches a “sanctioned hit,” things start going south. In their esteemed industry, they consider it treason of the highest order. The movie explores Boksoon’s interpersonal relations with the people in her life and picks up on the unique situation she finds herself in.
The standards and norms of modern action have been completely transformed ever since John Wick was released. The bar has been raised high where complexity in conceiving the scenes is as important as the execution. Kill Boksoon takes it really seriously and uses the eternal tools of damnation – blocking and camerawork – to optimize the film’s setting and shades of violence. Right from the get-go, the makers do not hesitate to color their violence with gore and bloodshed. It’s unique styling at once feels original and impactful.
Wide framing, as opposed to a singular and close focus on the characters, is preferred to dilute the visceral nature of the violence. While everything out there is some discombobulating regurgitation of something (hail Kubrick), Kill Boksoon’s action makes a great first impression. It is undoubtedly the film’s best friend, and we get our wishes fulfilled with many such instances. The visual symmetry is neat and fills the viewer with a tangible and palpable sense of tension. Some of the work is reminiscent of how David Fincher uses it to find order amidst the chaos.
Despite being shot in a dark background, Kill Boksoon is easy to follow. The use of lighting is not aspirational to disrupt the momentum of the storytelling. While its action is the highlight, Kill Boksoon has a surprising emotional depth, which, on the flip side, adds some minutes to the runtime. At two hours and twenty minutes, it is unusually long by modern standards. But in hindsight, it seems to be a beneficial creative decision overall.
Kill Bokoon is not just a plain assassin movie where the killings are nonsensical and there is no emotional incentive for the protagonist. Every character – Chairman Cha Min-kyu, Jae-young, and Young-ji – associates with Boksoon differently, bringing out a unique spectrum of themes. “Killing is easier than parenting,” which disturbingly reminds the viewer of the latest episode of True Lies, was a symbolic notion Boksoon struggled with throughout. The mother-daughter dynamic was an integral part of the film’s emotional fabric. Both actresses bring vulnerability to their portrayals, especially in those moments where the characters confront each other with uncomfortable truths about themselves.
Boksoon’s sentimental “mentor-mentee” love for Young-ji was not as developed but equally self-aware and purposeful. The strange familiarity and melancholy in Boksoon and Min-kyu’s equation became the centrifugal force in the third act of Kill Boksoon. Their history came to life in unspoken moments of delightful craftsmanship. There are a few seconds in the climax when Boksoon reveals Min-kyu’s “only weakness,” and he flinches ever so slightly, which captures this entire tangent. Props to Jeon Do-yeon and Sol Kyung-gu for sharing those brilliantly acted scenes.
Kill Boksoon is exciting as it is heartbreaking. It is both a high-octane action film with a distinguished and compelling visual language of its own, as well as an emotionally absorbing character study of a mother who is a professional assassin. Netflix has finally found its perfect action film – where John Wick meets Kill Bill.