Director: Choi Dong-hoon
Starring: Jeon Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo, Oh Dal-su, Cho Jin-woong, Lee Geung-young, Choi Deok-moon
Set during the occupation of Korea by the Japanese, the film follows a trio of Korean rebels who are tasked with completing an assassination of a key military leader and high level Korean traitor who has been colluding with the Japanese for years to great personal benefit. Enter a skilled female sniper (Jeon Ji-hyun), explosives expert (Choi Deok-moon), and a former Military Academy alumni (Cho Jin-woong). At the same time a traitorous force within the rebellion threatens to destroy the plot as skilled hitmen Hawaii Pistol (Ha Jung-woo) and Old Man (Oh Dal-su). As the trio of assassins and pair of hitmen work towards their respective goals, they find that their respective jobs will not be as easy as they thought when complications arise and long hidden secrets are brought into the open. With backstabbing and questionable allegiances the order of the day, what bloody steps will be taken towards an independent Korea?
Director Choi Dong-hoon turns from his more well-known modern thrillers/action fare and towards this period picture that boasts terrific action set pieces, a windy plot, and solid performances from some of Korea’s top talents. While the film shares a bit of an outline with Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, there is more than a little of director Choi’s trademark energy and expert twists that fans of his earlier films like The Big Swindle and The Thieves will be right at home. Thematically, the film does maintain a heavy sense of nationalism and the villainization of the Japanese and collaborators shows a deep historical anger that is not unlike similarly set Chinese language films.
Despite such a large cast, the principals all turn in solid and compelling performances. The ever lovely Jeon Ji-hyun demonstrates perhaps the most range in the film and brings a toughness, both in physicality and emotion that easily compliments the various tones throughout the film’s plot points and action bits. Ha Jung-woo plays the cool and smooth Hawaii Pistol with a practiced ease that isn’t uncommon in his career. Lee Jung-jae continues to impress and my opinion of him as one of Korea’s best actors working today is only further supported with his terrific turn. The film is rounded out with strong turns by Oh Dal-su, Cho Jin-woong, and Lee Geung-young.
A terrifically entertaining film, Assassination delivers in spades what so many action films wish to provide. It’s a wholly complete film that should have mass appeal in virtually all international markets and tastes. The stellar cast, coupled with the compelling story and action make the film one of my favorites of 2015. Choi does it again and I cannot personally wait for his next film.
Special Thanks to Well Go USA for providing a viewing copy!