Right out of the gate, the South Korean action-thriller 'The Villainess (2017)' (also knows as 'Ak-Nyeo') gets your adrenaline pumping with some of the most intense and well-shot action scenes I have ever experienced.
The film opens with Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin), a mysterious young woman who is single-handedly battling her way through a labyrinth of rooms in what appears to be a criminal organizations headquarters. Her mission seems to be nothing more than to eliminate the entire organization with her own two hands. Soon after completing this impressive task, Sook-hee is recruited by an agency to become a sleeper agent with the promise of a normal life after she completes ten years of service. While she is working as an agent the film begins to explore Sook-hee's earlier life and the story ultimately evolves into a complicated tale of revenge. It was this complex and hard to follow storyline of Sook-hee's past that pulled me out of the film a bit. It jumps around the timeline of Sook-hee's life and explores different characters in her past and present. While it is confusing at times, everything ultimately came together in the end so I would count this as big issue.
In the "making of" featurette on the US Blu-ray and DVD combo pack, writer, and director Jung Byung-gil says that he wanted to do something "new" and decided to take a unique approach to how 'The Villainess` would be shot. He didn't want to rely on CGI to get his unique shots. And he very much accomplished what he was hoping to do. If I could only praise this film, for one thing, it would be the way the film is shot. Early on in the film, the director transitions between a first-person and third-person viewpoint. And while both of these have been done before, it was the way the shot transitioned seamlessly between the two styles that impressed me the most. It isn't just the action scenes that get an original approach though; throughout the film, the director and cinematographer achieve a tense and immersive tone through the use of unique lighting and shot framing.
'The Villainess' is one of the best action films of 2017! It is a uniquely shot film that provides some of the best fight choreography and action scenes I have ever seen. While the story does get a bit complex and hard-to-follow, it ultimately came together in the end and resulted in a satisfying conclusion. I give 'The Villainess' a 8 out of 10.