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Film ● Review: Kill Bok Soon

English Title: Kill Bok Soon

Korean Title: 길복순

Director(s): Byun Sung-hyun

Screenwriter(s): Byun Sung-hyun

Studio: See At Film

Released: 2023

Runtime: 2h 19m

Starring: Jeon Do-yeon, Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Shi-ah, Esom, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Yeon

My Verdict: It is not an action fest but rather a character-driven film. Looks good and well-produced. Korean film or not, can be tightened a little.

Kill Bok Soon

● Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) is a highly experienced and competent assassin, mostly respected by the industry. She is the top employee at MK ENT., a company that employs and manages assassination jobs. The head of MK ENT. is Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu) who is a mentor to Bok-soon. He wants to renew her contract at MK ENT. whilst she considers retiring as she is a single mother to 15-year-old Gil Jae-yeong (Kim Shi-ah).

● It is tempting to anticipate that the film is an action fest with everyone going after Bok-soon for some reason. It is not.

● Whilst the film does include a few set pieces, it is more of a character-driven rather than a plot-driven story.

Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon)
Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon)
Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu)
Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu)
Gil Jae-yeong (Kim Shi-ah)
Gil Jae-yeong (Kim Shi-ah)

● Thankfully, it is not a simple case of Min-kyu having Bok-soon killed just because she doesn’t want to renew her contract. Under Min-kyu is his younger sister Min-hee (Esom) who works as the director. She considers Bok-soon as too much of a teacher’s pet, that Min-kyu gives her too much leeway. So, whilst Min-kyu is considerate of Bok-soon, Min-hee is antagonistic and it is this along with certain events that cause problems for Bok-soon.

Cha Min-hee (Esom)
Cha Min-hee (Esom)

● There is the noticeable use of saturated colors but nowhere near the amount seen in other films and K-dramas. The contrast is less in scenes at Bok-soon’s home, giving a warmer look. To clarify: it’s not as if only warm colors are used at her home and cool colors when she is in a fight, or that it’s always bright at home and dark elsewhere, it’s the combination of the palette, contrast and the amount of glow.

● It is shot and edited well. The action is stylized but not heavily given its genre. There is considerable use of wider shots that are held a bit longer, mostly avoiding the overuse of rapid cuts that make the action feel more kinetic but also difficult to follow. There are a few instances of the latter but not to the point of ruining the film. Visually, it has style but it is measured and balanced.

● As is common in Korean productions, there are moments of black comedy but this is deliberately not consistent. The premise of MK ENT. being the largest company amongst several others and the actions of Min-hee in her executive position are presumably satire/criticism of the corporate world or even the South Korean entertainment industry although this is not something explored in depth. It’s arguably not the point but would make the film more interesting if it did.

● Also, the way MK ENT. is shown vaguely reminds one of the worldbuilding as seen in the John Wick films but the mythology there is better thought-out and presented. Although arguably not as important in Kill Bok Soon, perhaps more of that would make the work fuller especially given its runtime.

● Ultimately, as already mentioned, it is a character-driven and, I should add, a relationship-driven work: Bok-soon vs her mentor and boss Min-kyu, Bok-soon vs her rebellious teenage daughter Jae-yeong, Bok-soon vs Min-hee the executive, and Min-kyu vs Min-hee with their sibling and workplace antagonism. There are other characters and conflicts but these are the more substantial ones. The pacing can be considered normal for a Korean film but is probably slow for those not familiar with Korean films and K-dramas.


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