South Korean film “Kill Boksoon”, which was released on Netflix at the end of last month, often seems to be confused about how it is about. While it looks like a violent black comedy about a strong heroine who struggles to balance herself between motherhood and her lethal profession, it also wants to be a grim action noir thriller film full of remorseless killings, and I was rather dissatisfied with its uneven gerne mix even while admiring the game efforts from its cast and crew members.
The story mainly revolves around Gil Bok-soon (Jeon Do-yeon) a female professional killer who has worked under a “company” led by Cha Min-kyu (Sol Kyung-gu). As shown from a flashback scene shown in the middle of the film, they happened to encounter each other when Bok-soon was a teenager, and, thanks to Min-kyu’s guidance and teaching, Bok-soon became the most successful professional killer in his company while Min-kyu made some aggressive expansion in his criminal business along with his sister/right-hand figure Min-hee (Esom).
However, things recently do not go that well in Bok-soon’s private life due to her adolescent daughter Jae-yeong (Kim Si-a), who has no idea on how her mother has earned her living out there. Mainly thanks to her nearly perfect success rate for many years, Bok-soon has been able to provide a very affluent environment for her dear daughter, but there is still some distance between her and her daughter, and she comes to feel more frustrated than before.
The early part of the movie has some fun with how Bok-soon manages to go back and forth between her profession and her private life. When she is with the mothers of her daughters’ schoolmates, she simply listens and agrees with them while not telling much about herself. When she happens to spend some time with her fellow professional killers who cannot help but envy her considerable success, she feels a bit more relaxed than before, and she even has a casual sex with one of them later.
Nevertheless, Bok-soon comes to feel really tired of balancing herself between two different worlds, and now she must make an important decision. Min-kyu wants to renew their contract, but she seriously considers retirement for spending more time with her daughter, and Min-kyu is not so pleased about that. In addition, he has to deal with a certain serious business problem with other companies under his leadership, and losing Bok-soon is the last thing he wants at right now, though his sister, who does not like Bok-soon at all, is glad to get rid of Bok-soon as soon as possible in contrast.
Meanwhile, there comes another job to be done by Bok-soon, but, what do you know, she feels quite conflicted about this job for understandable personal reasons, and that leads to a very complicated situation for both Bok-soon and Min-kyu. For maintaining the order of his criminal world as well as their close relationship, he is ready to do anything, but Bok-soon does not like this at all, and that naturally results in a serious conflict between them.
In addition, Bok-soon also finds herself in more conflict with her daughter, who causes a big trouble at her prestigious private school and will probably be expelled because of that. As Jae-yeong refuses to tell the motive behind her rather violent action at her school, the gap between her and her mother becomes more widened than before, and Bok-soon does not know what to do with this personal issue between her and her daughter, while also trying to survive her growing conflict with Min-kyu.
Now this looks like a solid setup for an engaging hybrid of action, comedy, and thriller, but the screenplay by Byun Sung-hyun, who previously directed “The Merciless” (2017) and “Kingmaker” (2022), does not advance much from that to my disappointment. While it seems to be quite serious in terms of story and characters, the movie still feels like an one-joke comedy stretched a bit too much, and that is not compensated much by a number of stylish moments doled out among the story.
Anyway, the main cast members of the film play straight to their materials for generating some amusement for us. Jeon Do-yeon, who has been mainly known for winning the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for “Secret Sunshine” (2007), deftly handles a number of juicy comic moments besides looking credible in several key action scenes, and Sol Kyung-gu, who previously collaborated with Byun in “The Merciless” (2017) and “Kingmaker” (2022), is effective as Jeon’s counterpart as having his own deadpan comic moments. Although they are stuck in thankless supporting roles, Esom, who was unforgettable in “Microhabitat” (2018), Kim Si-a (Remember that little girl in “Miss Baek” (2018)?), and Koo Kyo-hwan manage to leave some impression at least, and I was also amused by the cameo appearance of a certain well-known South Korea actor during the opening scene.
In conclusion, “Kill Boksoon” is not wholly without entertaining elements, but it does not distinguish itself much as trying to imitate the mood and style of other similar films ranging from “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” (2003) and “Kill Bill: Vol.2” (2004) to “John Wick” (2014) and its several sequels. While it is not as sharp as required as a black comedy movie, it also feels curiously dampened as an action noir film, and that made me care less about its story and characters as observing it from the distance. As a genre exercise, it was fun to some degree, but it does not have much style and substance on the whole in my inconsequential opinion, and, folks, that is a big dissatisfaction.