The Killer, 2022.
Directed by Jae-Hoon Choi.
Starring Jang Hyuk, Bang Ui Gang, Seo-young Lee, Tae-Hyun Cha, and Chae-Young Lee.
A retired hitman is brought back into active duty when the teenager he is babysitting gets involved in a human trafficking ring.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first – Korean action thriller The Killer is going to get compared to John Wick in near enough every review you are ever likely to see, and for obvious reasons.
There is no getting around the fact that this high-octane blast of violence about a retired assassin brought back into the game by something relatively trivial, as he kicks, stabs and shoots his way to the end-of-level boss against a backdrop of pink neon and a thumping soundtrack, does indeed share a lot of DNA with Keanu Reeves kicking, stabbing and shooting his way to… Anyway, you get the point.
The major difference between the two movies, though, is that The Killer does not have a mythology or a wider universe it is set in. There is no central hotel for our hero Bang Ui Gang (Jang Hyuk) to recover or get new weapons in, nor is there a cast of characters all there to back him up as he goes about his mission, and it is that lack of plot – which is not a criticism – that makes The Killer a slightly different experience because it allows a greater efficiency of writing; the filmmakers don’t need to tie certain events into other things, they don’t need to think too far ahead and stretch out scenarios so something makes sense further down the line – The Killer is very much a movie about experiencing the moment.
And the moments it gives you are satisfying and rewarding, as long as you have a penchant for gratuitous blood shedding. Bang Ui Gang is as laid-back as they come as far as protagonists go, and his relaxed manner is very endearing when his wife Hyeon Soo (Chae-Young Lee) is telling him that she is going away for three weeks with her best friend and that Ui Gang is babysitting her friend’s 17-year-old daughter Kim Yun Ji (Seo-young Lee). His protests have no effect and before long he has dropped off the rebellious teenager at the local university with her friend, and thinking he has some time to himself he goes home, which is when he receives a phone call from Yun Ji calling him back into the city and from there it all kicks off.
Lit in the brightest of neon lights, with fluid camera movements and an energy that contradicts Ui Gang’s lethargic manner, The Killer is brilliant, no-nonsense entertainment from start to finish, the pace never lagging as bullets fly and faces explode, right up to the equally fat-free final scene, the movie ending exactly as it should.
And, as a bonus, it clocks in at a trim 95 minutes which, for a Korean movie, makes it more-or-less a short. Perfect to slot in a few viewings before the next John Wick adventure at least.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
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