Jung’s The Villainess offers enough action to make up for the otherwise confusing complexity of its storytelling.
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A satisfyingly convoluted revenge thriller in which the dynamically staged, blood-drenched action sequences are a highlight rather than the film’s sole raison d’être.
The Villainess is entertaining enough, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we should be caring more for this character as the film goes on, not less.
The Villainess confounds its audience on two levels: firstly, how the filmmakers pulled off the elaborate set pieces and secondly, leaving them to wonder what the hell is going on in the plot.
If The Villainess sounds like derivative junk, that’s because it is — but rarely is derivative junk executed with such panache and personality.
The flurry of characters takes a long time to get straight, and identification is made even harder by the nervous handheld camerawork and rapid-fire editing that makes no concessions. But no matter: the film comes into its element in the imaginative action scenes.
There’s something about the overwrought relationships and hidden connections that amplify our excitement. Jung is moving things so fast (despite a runtime just over two hours) that we’re never afforded a pause to roll our eyes or laugh. We instead buckle down since each revelation means Sook-hee is given another reason to fight.
The Villainess delivers all the overstuffed thrills we’ve come to expect from Korean action cinema. But it also strains under the weight of those expectations.
When one finally puts together the pieces of the film’s scattered narrative puzzle, The Villainess doesn’t add up to all that much beyond a slick march toward an act of bloody revenge.
Channeling “La femme Nikita,” “Kill Bill,” Nikkatsu’s ’70s female exploitation films and a gazillion Hong Kong martial arts heroines, The Villainess nonetheless succeeds in being one-of-a-kind for its delirious action choreography and overall narrative dementia.